Thursday, March 8, 2012

Butt-Fugly Building of the Week-- March 8th

The Barnes Foundation Philadelphia Campus

2001 Ben Franklin Parkway

Those trees need to bloom right fucking now.
                     Man... I was really excited when I heard that the Barnes Foundation was moving to the Parkway. I'm not going to rehash all the drama that unfolded about the move, because fuck that, it's OVER! The motherfucker is almost done. Unfortunately, the building we ended up with looks... like... ASS!!!!!
                     THIS is what we were all waiting for all those years? THIS is what we get after winning World War Motherfucking TEN over moving the collection here? I remember the excitement I had waiting for renderings to come out for this thing. I kept thinking about how the old Barnes building was cool as fuck, so the new one would have to be cool as shit, right? Then the renderings were revealed in October of 2009.

Wait a minute...

                     HORRIBLENESS. I started telling myself that it was good, just underwhelming in the rendering. I pretended that it wouldn't end up looking like a big white shipping container sitting on a suburban bank branch. Even as it started going up, I told myself that it'll look good. Well, now that its almost done, I can be assured it saying that it LOOKS WORSE THAN I EVER COULD HAVE FUCKING IMAGINED!!
Pictured: White shipping container on a suburban bank branch.
                Let me be fair... the building's not done yet. Maybe something will be different when its done... maybe that white box is covered with white craft paper on the inside that will be removed when its finished. Maybe the landscaping of the Zen Garden will be so badass that no one will notice the building... I'm fuckin' reaching here!!
                What's with that facade? All the time I've been writing this blog, I would rag on how buildings need to have stone facades again, like in the old days. Finally a new building comes along with a stone facade and all it ends up doing is proving me the fuck wrong. It looks like a kitchen counter. I thought it was bad when we were building stuff out of sidewalk, now we're building out of countertop!!
                 You know what would have been a good design for the new Barnes Foundation? THIS:

 Image from the Athenaeum of Philadelphia
                   That's right... they should have built a replica of the old Barnes building on the Parkway. It was designed by Paul Phillipe Cret, designer of plenty of other shit that's already on the Parkway, the old Barnes design would look perfect between his other masterpieces... which not only include buildings but also the lampposts and shit. Makes perfect sense right?? Instead, we all got dicked. Maybe some awesome piece of public art will distract away from the building... oh wait..

Those rendering people on the right are like "Let's get the fuck out of here!"
                      ...nope. That's all I can say about this mess. What a missed opportunity for something cool. What fucking bummer.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Lost Building of the Week-- March 7th

Western Saving Fund Society

1000 Walnut Street

Should have called it Second National Bank of Badassery.
                          Right here we have a cool-ass local bank building from the late 19th Century. When this thing was built, banks were a symbol of civilization and power in the city. Nowadays, bank branches and even some bank headquarters buildings look like any crappy suburban storefront. How the mighty have fallen.
                       In the 1840's, there was a shitload of banks in the city and MANY super-rich investors were profiting from them. Then, a new idea came along... a bank that would be considered "unselfish". On February 8th 1847, the state legislature chartered a new kind of bank, one without stockholders. This new bank was targeted to mechanics and tradesmen that lived in the western part of the city, which back then was anywhere west of 9th street. The name of the bank would describe this and the bank's main service:
saving money. It would be called the Western Saving Fund Society.
                      After 4 decades, the WSFS was doing so well that they commissioned Megatect to the Stars John Hamilton Windrim to design a Mega-Castle of Savings Kick-ass at the Southwest corner of 10th and Walnut Streets, at that time a residential neighborhood that was about to explode with progress. The granite ashlar fortress was completed in 1887. This banking mausoleum's location was one of the best in the city. The short-lived Central Business District was in transition from 8th and 9th Streets to the new one near the new City Hall.
                   The next two decades after the bank was built, the neighborhood it was in became a short-lived upperclass playground. Alterations of the facade took place in 1902 and 1909, spearhead by none other than the Furness and Evans Company firm. By 1910, the place was doing so well that an addition was built on the western side, designed by the original architect's son, John Torrey Windrim. He doubled the size of his Pop's masterpiece.

 Building as depicted on a celluloid "dime bank", whatever the fuck that is.
                  Even as the neighborhood started to fall into decline in the 1920's and 30's, the bank prospered. Branch offices started popping up all over the city, and huge bank buildings were constructed in Kensington and Frankford bearing their name. They even had a branch at the motherfucking Hale Building! Ads from the era brag about how you could open a savings account with them with just one dollar.
                After that, things started going to shit. The bank floundered and moved out to Haverford, PA in attempt to save its own ass, leaving the Tomb of King Moneybags behind. It was demolished in 1967 to make way for Jefferson University's semi-successful 1960's expansion. Moving to Haverford only delayed the inevitable... the bank was acquired by the Philadelphia Savings Fund Society in 1982. If the building was still standing today, it would be a really good-looking Citizen's Bank branch.
                  What a bummer. It would be great if this thing was still around. The crappy Jefferson dorm that replaced it can't hold a candle to the design of this Multi-Windrimed masterpiece. Thanks a lot, Jeff.

In its final days. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Empty Lot of the Week-- March 6th

George W. Childs Lot

Southeast Corner of 22nd and Walnut

                      This lot is pitiful. This part of town has no damn excuse to have an empty hole like this at such a high traffic corner. For 42 years, this shitty lot has reigned supreme over what should be an awesome intersection. It becomes even worse when you find out what used to be there... a cool-ass historic mansion owned by one of the biggest-balled motherfuckers in Philadelphia history.
                    Read more on the Philadelphia City Paper's Naked City Blog!!!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Old-Ass Building of the Week-- March 5th

IRS 30th Street Campus (a.k.a Philadelphia General Post Office, a.k.a. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Processing and Distribution Center)

2970 Market Street

                      While the United States Postal Service is in decline (mainly because of this, the Internet), there was once a time when the Post Office was the most importance service in the country. This building represents that age in the city like no the form of a giant Monolithic Art Deco Riverfront Fortress of Mail Distribution of Doom and Associated Apocalypses.
                 Read more at Hidden City Philadelphia!!