Thursday, May 10, 2012

Butt-Fugly Public Art of the Week-- May 10th

Christoper Columbus Monument by Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates

Columbus Boulevard at Dock Street

Is that supposed to be what Columbus's dick looked like? Pic from
                      This thing looks ridiculous, and gets worse and worse as you get closer to it. The Columbus Memorial is probably the ugliest obelisk in the history of civilization. One of the biggest pieces of public art in the city, this steel Columbus Cock gives all Philadelphia public art a bad name.
                     Since 1975, the official quincentennial anniversary celebration of Chistopher Columbus's landing in the New World was being planned for Philadelphia. Endless groups and committees and corporations were created to plan the massive two-day international parade and party. In 1989, one of the groups, the American 500 Corporation, commissioned what would become the piece de resistance of the event, a massive quincentennial memorial that was touted as "changing the skyline".
                   When people heard "changing the skyline" they went nuts over it. To actually effect the Philadelphia skyline, it would have to be HUGE!! Then they got Robert Venturi's firm, the demons behind the butt-fugly Guild House and other assorted atrocities, to come up with the design. Big mistake! Venturi's people created a steel tower of panels that hang from a central pole. At the top would be a weathervane shaped like Italy and Spain's flags and the bottom would be walls of useless text.

The maquette of an early version of the design.
                  The super-geniouses at Venturi thought that the memorial should be an obelisk, since Columbus was Italian and many obelisks can be found in Rome. That's just dumb. The only reason Rome has obelisks is because Ancient Roman emperors thought the ones in Egypt were cool, so they would either capture them or build copies. In later centuries, popes thought they were cool so some more were built and so on and so on... but really, obelisks are for Egyptians. Using an obelisk in this way to memorialize Columbus would be like using a statue of Alyssa Milano to memorialize the Tokugawa Shogunate.

At about the same time the Columbus Memorial was being created, Allysa Milano was very popular in Japan.
                       In June 1992, three years and $1.05 million dollars later, the piece of junk was built. Once it was done, the people who were orignally so excited about it threw up in their own mouths. The tower was a massive disappointment and definitely did not change the skyline at only 106 feet tall. A few months later, the gigantic quincentennial event, named "Land Ho! Philadelphia Columbus Day Weekend" (lol), went off without a hitch. The grande finale of the weekend would be the official unveiling of this ugly steel fuckstick accompanied by a gigantic fireworks display.

From the celebration.
                   In 1993, the Pennsylvania Society of Architects gave it the Design Award for Excellence in Architectural Design. Venturi's ass must be covered in scars from how much its been kissed. Twenty years later, no one cares. The stupid monument just sits there collecting pigeonshit, barely noticed despite its "skyline changing" size. Some people make the mistake of attempting to read the wall of text found on all sides of it, which is stupid.

They crossed his name out! Pic from
                        Among the labels Mathematician and Cartographer are crazy ones on the other sides like Naturalist and Charismatic Leader. There's some kiss-ass info about Columbus and the names of every last human being that had something to do with the creation of the monument. Among them, it says "the Honorable Vincent J. Fumo". Honorable? That alone is a reason this thing sucks.
                      We were supposed to get a Columbus's discovery-related memorial that would change the skyline, but instead we got a big metal pud. If it was dicks they wanted, they should have asked for a 500-foot statue of Columbus with 500 cocks that would snake all around the neighborhood with speakers at the tips that would forever play David Hasselhoff music. That would be more appropriate than this mess. Fuck.


  1. I always thought we would have been much luckier to end up with this. Not quite 500 feet, but certainly would have been noticeable. Maybe Puerto Rico won't take it after all.

  2. holy christ, your blog is hilarious!!!!

  3. I just read an interesting article that has bearing on this: "The Decline of American Monuments and Memorials." It can be found here:
    and as a PDF here: