Thursday, March 15, 2012

Butt-Fugly Public Art of the Week-- March 15th

Covenant by Alexander Liberman

Corner of 39th Street and Locust Walk

Get the fuck out of here. Pic from
                     Oh look, its the Lipstick Arch. 25 tons of steel that have ruined the UPenn campus for 37 years. This pile of dogshit wouldn't bother me nearly as much if it was just called what it looked like: Ass. Instead, they had to give it all kinds of lofty/stupid meaning and call it Covenant.
                    A covenant is defined as "an agreement, usually formal, between two or more persons to do or not do something specified." What the fuck agreement is this thing making? The agreement to look like shit? Mission accomplished. Like most trash, this fuckbag arch is from the 1970's, a terrible decade for art and design of all types.
                    In 1974, Penn needed to satisfy the good old Percent-for-Art requirement. Penn put together a group called the Committee for the Visual Environment that would determine what public art would be installed on campus to meet the need. The members of the committee included Architecture Professor Holmes Perkins, Art History Professor John McCoubrey, Dean of the Fine Arts School Peter Shepheard, former director of The Institute for Contemporary Art Samuel Adams Greene, chairman of the Institute of Contemporary Art H. Gates Lloyd, an unnamed Penn student, and the Grand Imp of Philadelphia Boxitecture, Vincent Kling.
                   Apparently, all these people were blind, drunk, or took their Pretentiousness Pills before every meeting, because this little group chose some pretty horrendous shit. Among them was this 40-foot-tall Steel Arch of Guttertrash. The same group was responsible for the stupendously awful We Lost as well. The garbage was assembled in 1974 and was installed on the Penn campus in the summer of 1975. Final cost: 100,000 smackers, 20,000 of which went just to the installation. Oh, and 40,000 of your tax dollars came to it through the NEA.
                  As usual, a bunch of bullshit "deep" meanings and lofty-ass nonsense was used to describe this ugly motherfucker. It was described as having "the impact of a temple or cathedral" and  "one of several sculptures that reflect Liberman's fascination with industrial America." The artist himself  said it creates a "feeling of bonding together for a higher purpose" and that it "convey[s] a sense of unity and spiritual participation". Unity? Bonding? Spiritual participation? Higher purpose? Get the fuck outta here. 
                 Both Penn's students and professors immediately thought it was a pile of crap. Newspaper articles from the period quote many of each talking about what a horrible piece of art it was. By the November after it was installed, an event was organized by WXPN to attempt to knock it over with soundwaves. Sadly, it failed, and the sculpture was officially dedicated one year later.
                  In November of 1979, Joan Mondale, Vice-President Walter Mondale's wife, toured Philadelphia's public art. Her first stop? THIS. She pretended to like it, but we all know the truth... nobody likes it. This is yet another time where the Percent-for-Fart program brought us some terrible-ass work that will continue standing for at least another four decades. Thanks a lot, assholes.
Its COVE-enant!
                   Addendum: I've come to find out that this shitbird of a sculpture is commonly known as "Deuling Tampons" on the UPenn campus. It's also the name of a website and twitter feed, which uses COVE-enant as its logo. Wow! Its even more well-known for being horrible than I thought. Thanks to everyone who e-mailed, commented, and tweeted (ugh) to let me know.

                                          -GroJLart, King of Philadelphia and France

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Parking Garage of the Week-- March 14th

                      That's right, this is the disgusting new subject that will be gracing Philaphilia every other Wednesday. Parking Garages are a necessary evil in every large city. Though ideally underground, most can be found above, uglying-up even the finest of streets. This, then, will be the stories of these horrible parking behemoths... because fuck 'em!

                                                 -GroJLart, King of Philadelphia and France

Philadelphia Parking Authority Eighth Street Parking Plaza

Straddling Eighth Street between Arch and Filbert

                     For 48 years, this monstrous 1,000+ car parking dragoon has butt-fuglied two blocks of Arch Street. Even though almost everything around it managed to get demolished over the years, this ugly bastard has stuck around to ruin the hopes and dreams of everyone who sees it. The Eighth Street Parking Plaza represents pretty much everything that's wrong with parking garages.
                    In the 1950's, parking in the city was a pain in the ass. The suburban shopping mall hadn't really caught on quite yet so people from out in the boonies would come to the city to shop at its kick-ass department stores on Market East. Once the suburbanites arrived, there'd be nowhere for them to park. To add insult to injury, City Council was passing all kinds of wacky restrictions on street parking that would get passed and repealed every five minutes. This made the multitude of surface parking lots want to expand upward.
                   In early 1962, a proposal was announced whereby the city would appropriated and destroy a shitload of ancient residential and commercial buildings and replace them with a super-gigantic street-straddling parking garage that would be connected to Strawbridge & Clothier and Lit Brothers.

It looks so innocent in this drawing.
                     The garage would have retail facing both Arch and Eighth Street. The plan went gangbusters and a groundbreaking ceremony was held by the end of that year. People were actually celebrating the creation of this monster.

It was more of a Awesome Building Destruction Ceremony.
                      Two years later, the mega-garage was complete. The opening day was February 22nd, 1964. Was there another ceremony? Of course!!

Hey! That's not a PARK!
                    Ever since, this humongous pile of ass-shit (what other kind is there?) has been darkening North Eighth Street and disfiguring Arch Street with its crappy retail and tarnished facade. From what I can tell, this thing's Arch Street facade has never been cleaned, painted, or updated... at least not recently. Some of the Eighth Street death tunnel's crappy stores still have ancient signage that's getting so old that they've reached kitsch status.
                     One of the worst things about this place is that it is seen by many an out-of-towner that attend conventions at the Great Wall of Pennsylvania aka PA Convention Center. Guide books to the city tell suburbanites to park there when conventioneering. This instantly gives a horrible impression of Philly to anyone from outside the city. It's bad enough that one of the city's worst empty lots is across the street!
                     This thing is one of Philly' longest-lasting disgraces. The place probably makes a shitload of money from all the out-of-town parking action it gets, so don't expect it to go anywhere anytime soon. The only thing we can hope for is a new facade and maybe a building on top. Oh, did I not mention that this place is zoned C-5? This fucking thing is taking up some goddamn skyscraper-allowed real estate! Destroy it.            

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Dead-Ass Proposal of the Week-- March 13th

Cret's City Hall Alterations

Penn Square/Centre Square/City Hall Square

Whhhhhaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat!?!?! Image from the Athenaeum of Philadelphia
                     Its a pretty foregone conclusion that Paul Phillippe Cret was a bit off his rocker. That didn't stop him from designing some of the most badass stuff this city has ever seen. What a lot of people don't realize is that this nutty motherfucker had even more wacky plans to turn this city into Crazy Cretworld that never came to fruition (and rightly so).
                     Read more at the Philadelphia City Paper's Naked City Blog!!

-GroJLart, King of Philadelphia and France

Monday, March 12, 2012

Mystery Lost Building of the Week-- March 12th

Center City Cadillac Building (aka Scott Smith Cadillac, aka Neel Cadillac)

1385 Ridge Avenue

                          This is the worst kind of Mystery Building-- the kind that no longer exists. This Great Wall of Melon Street stood for seven decades but got no goddamn respect. Here's one of those times when a building got demolished without any thought of the future. If this thing still stood, it would be the hottest loft condo building EVER.
                         This massive building was thrown up by General Motors and lived most of its life as a Cadillac dealership and storage area. However, part of the mystery of this building is that records can't seem to agree on when this humongous motherfucker was built. One source says it was built in 1924, but the proposal for it dates from 1927. How could a building that was already built be proposed?
                         Most people that are new to North Broad Street have no idea that it was once a car dealership mega-row that served the entire region. People would come far and wide to buy a vehicle from the North Broad Auto Showroom Super Row. The buildings they were in started pretty small but by the end of the 1920's were getting humongous, as they needed to store a shitload of cars.
                        There was a Cadillac dealership in one of the smaller buildings called Peerless Cadillac. One of the early birds to the row, it stood in a short and slender building on North Broad Street that still stands today, sitting between the S.V. Hamilton Building (also an old car building) and the Parkway Corp. Parking Garage Building (a piece of shit) today. A new larger building was sorely needed-- so Scott Smith, Cadillac dealer extraordinaire, took the entire block that was next to the Divine Lorraine, most of the 1300 block of Melon Street, and demolished the fuck out of it to create this Massive Castle of Cadillac Fucksticks.The architect was the badass behind the butt-ass awesome Lasher Building.
                        The dealership stayed open for the next five decades, famous throughout the region. Its presence on North Broad Street was only exceeded by the Divine Lorraine next door. The only problem is... no one seemed to want to take a fucking picture of it!! The only photos that seem to exist are aerial shots and pictures of other shit where you can see it in the background.

That guy is like "That building is huge!", in this pic from 1963. You can see the edge of the Center City Cadillac on the right.
                    Cadillac held the place until 1979 before they quit. After that, the building stood abandoned and unmaintained for the next 15 years without a thought. In March of 1993, the Philadelphia Parking Authority was slated to move their entire operation into the building, turning it into a gigantic office/impound lot/hate center. This would have been huge for the Authority and the neighborhood. This would have put people back at work in this area and made their impound lot accessible to public transit, which STILL ISN'T except by crappy bus.
                      They had a deal to lease the building from its owner, the Philadelphia Suburban Development Corporation, who agreed to a $10 million renovation. Then came the catch. The PSDC was able to offer a super-cheap $966,660 a year rental rate if the renovation was done with non-union labor. Union labor would jack up the price of the renovation and therefore the jack up the price of rent. On top of that, the leadership of the PSDC were huge contributors to then-Mayor Rendell's campaign, so the public claimed shenanigans.
                      Needless to say, it never fucking happened. A few years later, the building was gone. The exact demolition date is a mystery to me but I bet somebody reading this remembers. Not only is the building gone, the entire street that was behind it is gone as well. All that's left is a massive empty lot connected to other massive empty lots creating a massive desert of dead development.

Aerial photos of the building and then... not.
                     What a missed opportunity. If this thing still stood, it would be part of the current (somewhat underwhelming) North Broad Street renaissance. Think of how many condos or apartments that thing could hold. They could've called it Cadillac House! Dumbasses. Nonetheless.. the questions remain... what exact year was it built, what exact year did it go down, and where are all the pictures of it!?!?!?