Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Butt-Fugly Building of the Week-- July 12th

Municipal Services Building and Thomas Paine Plaza

1417 John F. Kennedy Boulevard

All the beauty of a cardboard box. Photo by Stoyan Zlatanov.
                       Everyone knows about this tarnished metal corrugated cardboard pile of shit. It looks like one of those foamcore models of a building, but it's unfortunately the real deal. This looks like one of those fake buildings you see in a 60's movie about the future. What a goddamn embarrassment. Lots of other butt-fugly buildings I've talked about often go ignored or unseen by out-of-towners and tourists... but this one is front and center.. everyone sees this Tower of Fucktocracy.
                      Then to add insult to injury, they surround the thing with the one of the ugliest public spaces in America. I've only ever heard people call it "Municipal Services Plaza" but it's really called Thomas Paine Plaza. I'd rather have a surface parking lot than this piece of unfortunate fuck.

What the fuck? Photo by Chris Oberlin
                         First you have that big sunken area that is part of the Suburban Station underground maze. They might as well call that Bum Halla. They put that hole next to the sidewalk on Broad Street just to make sure that the first block of North Broad would be dead as fuck. Then you have this plaza that's five feet off the ground in some spots, creating a stone and concrete wall at the sidewalk on all sides. Yeah, good fucking planning.
                       On top of all that stupidity, they fill it with giant game pieces and a big ass statue that looks like the artist sculpted a monument to the biggest shit he ever took. Throw in a 10-foot-tall statue of the most corrupt mayor in history and you have the ugliest fucking public building and space in the region.
                       The Municipal Services Building was conceived by Edmund Bacon as part of his Concrete Revolution of Center City. He imagined a utopian world where people would take mass transit into the city, walk through underground concourses from building to building, and sparingly traverse through low-maintenance public spaces above ground. Since the city government was still outgrowing both of their massive buildings, he added a new city government building into the mix. Little did he know that all his stone/concrete plazas and concourses would look like absolute fuck when they aged.
                       Reyburn Plaza was on the block that the MSB now resides. It was a surface parking lot/park/concert venue installed in 1909. A rail concourse ran underneath. It wasn't beautiful but at least it wasn't five feet off the ground. It had a big stage for concerts that infrequently occurred at the spot. People still refer to the plaza as Reyburn Plaza today even though it's now called Thomas Paine.

This piece of shit is still better than what's there now.
                      Construction of the MSB took FOREVER. It began in 1962 but wasn't done until 3 years later due to protests and union/city disagreements (a.k.a. Philadelphia business as usual). As soon as it was done, it looked like a piece of garbage. That didn't stop this Ballsack of Balzac from earning a shitload of architecture awards. Dumbasses.
Beginning confucktion  in 1962.
Looking like shit right after completion.
                     The horrific public art in the plaza was added during the Bicentennial Spruce-Up in the mid 70's. What trash. There is a silver lining to this black thundercloud, however. The city is opening up to the idea of nixing Thomas Paine Plaza and offering the space to developers for a building that would liven up that shitty first block of North Broad. Don't get your hopes up. Redesigns of Dilworth Plaza and LOVE Park are the priority right now so the space will continue to look shitty for at least 5 more years.
                      The Municipal Services Building will probably not be demolished in anyone's lifetime. Future generations will be reviled by it's ugliness for at least another century. Thanks, dicks.

1 comment:

  1. I totally agree overall. While I don't think the MSB is the worst building the in city, there is so much wrong with all of the bullshit that surrounds it that it makes for a horrific whole. The truly worst parts are the pointless game pieces ("SORRY! CITY GOVERNMENT IS REALLY SHITTY HERE! lol, we're not really sorry."), that ugly statue, and - as you well pointed out - the statue of Frank Rizzo, who was probably our worst mayor ever except for maybe Wilson Goode. This "plaza" is a granite and concrete wasteland.

    If the City had half a sense for culture... or travel... or business... or common sense, they would sell the rights to have one or two plaza cafes for the MSB. They should do the me thing for City Hall's courtyard and also Dilworth Plaza. They do this all the time in Germany from what I have seen. People should do more than pass through public spaces - they should use them. And if you can make money off of it, why not? These businesses won't balance the budget, but they can help and they also help fight the false stereotype that is the neanderthal Philadelphian.

    And if we can do that, we can greatly boost the tourism portion of our local economy. International tourism has been increasing greatly in Philadelphia and that is a great thing. There is no reason why Philadelphia should not be considered a wold class destination. Let's realize our potential.