Thursday, May 31, 2012

Butt-Fugly Building of the Week-- May 31st

1601 Market (aka Five  Penn Center Plaza, aka Central Penn Bank Building)

1601 Market Street

                          AAaargggh!! Another building named after its address. After talking about the Central Penn National Bank yesterday, I had a hankerin' to talk about the shitty building that Central Penn put its name on in 1969... this one. This ugly brown Klingbox was once considered a futuristic super-kickass Philly skyscraper. Well, age has not been kind to it. 43 years later, it looks like spunk.
                          The worst part about this one is that the facade is NOT concrete. Its actually limestone!! Limestone that looks just like the shittiest, dirtiest, smelliest concrete facade you've ever seen. How could someone fuck up this much? How could a building be clad in limestone but look just as fucked up as exposed concrete? What a disaster. Worse than a disaster. An Assaster.
                          This 36-story 490 foot assasster was originally planned in the 1950's by Edmund Bacon as yet another clone of One and Two Penn Center. As the years passed, everyone got sick of the same shitty box being built over and over again, so the later Penn Center buildings ended up being a little different. In the late 1960's, the Uris Buildings Corporation was ready to throw up a skyscraper in Philadelphia like no other.. a FIVE Penn Center. They just needed a tenant. 
                         The Central Penn National Bank was tired of their 1401 Walnut location and ready to move into the new Penn Center office complex, which people thought was cool because of all the underground concourses and shit. They saw the new Five Penn Center as a way moving into the next generation. Some of the Great Satans of Philadelphia architecture, Vincent Kling's firm, decided to do something a little different this time. Their usual ugly box would be made taller, thinner, and have a groundfloor plaza that would give the illusion that the building was floating on air. It would be the same height as the PSFS Building, at that time the second tallest building in the city.

The rendering. Yeah, it really floats on air.

                            Kling's creativity was then stretched to the limit when they added a black box on the upper northern corners of the east and west sides of the building, along with a series of boxes along the back and around the middle. Wow! That's a huuuge stretch for Kling. It ends up they had help from another firm, Emory Roth and Sons. I will credit them with the extra touches.
                           This 681,289 square foot bitch-bastard got hastily built over the Winter of 1969-1970. Once complete, it became known as the Central Penn National Bank Building. Central Penn put a gigantic "CP" logo on the black boxes at the top. CP? What are they trying to say? Captain Picard?

Crappy picture of the building back when it still had the Captain Picard logo.
                     Once Central Penn National Bank merged its way out of existence, the building took on the name Five Penn Center Plaza after the large pedestrian plaza that runs along the back of the building and was intended to keep going under the stilts to hold the building up. The problem with this plaza, which isn't that bad, is that from it you see THE BACK OF THE BUILDING.

Jesus fuck that's ugly! Pic by Sousaman12.
                        The back of the building makes the front look like a goddamn Picasso. That's not concrete there, Young Bulls, that's limestone. A gigantic featureless limestone wall on the building's most visible side (due to the plaza). What fucking mistake.
                        In 1986, when Liberty Place across the street was under construction, the building owners decided that as a gimmick, they would rename the building after its address, 1601 Market, and charge only $16.01 a square foot for office space. It was a stupid idea. In late 1988 and early 1989, the lobby was enlarged by Cope Linder and took down a big portion of the street-level plaza under the stilts.
                      Today, the building is still pretty successful, probably due to its primo location. There were small renovations in 1999 and 2006. The building management actually has an online tenant handbook that's kind of fun to read. Despite being somewhat modernized and thriving, the building itself is still an ugly piece of orangutan dung. I say fuck it!!!


  1. I think you meant 2 and 3 Penn Center. One Penn Center is the rather cool Art Deco building over Suburban Station.

  2. I don't understand why you hate buildings named after their addresses. It seems like the least pretentious solution. Would you rather have buildings with douchey names like "Paragon Centre" or "Commerce Plaza"?

    1. When they're named after their addresses, it seems like they have no purpose. I'd prefer 5 Penn Center, which is still a shitty name, to 1601 Market.