Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Butt-Fugly Building of the Week-- July 19th

Jefferson Hospital for Neuroscience (a.k.a. Wills Eye Hospital)

900 Walnut Street

                Oh look, another building made of Duplo blocks. What the hell is this crap? A building cladded with some kind of light grey metal? Get real. I hate buildings that can't decide if they're a box or a step pyramid. On top of all that, it has a parking garage sticking out it's ass, making a crappy back-frontage on Locust Street.
               In 1972, the Wills Eye Hospital became Jefferson University's Department of Ophthalmology. Jefferson students were now going there to learn all their eye-related shit. Wills Eye's location at 16th and Spring Garden was in continuous use for 40 years and could no longer hold the expanding hospital, which now had a shitload of Jefferson students showing up.
                In the late 70's they decided to build a new facility at the western edge of a huge empty lot that once spanned from an area west of 9th all the way to 8th street, Locust to Walnut. It was part of an urban renewal plan in 1976 called the Knock Everything the Fuck Down Plan.

It was a big fucking lot. This ugly piece of shit building only managed to cover the area all the way to the left across 9th street, leaving the entire 8th/9th/Locust/Walnut area still vacant. The American Postal Workers House (now HUP Crazy House) was built in the spot photographed here.
                 Wills Eye went up to Ballinger Architects and said "Hey dumbasses! Design us a building that will not look good in ANY time period, not just our own. Make the facade light fucking grey metal!" What did they come up with? This piece of shit:
What crap.
                Shamefully, this is not some rendering I pulled off the internet...this one is from my own collection. I try to collect old photographs and drawings of Philadelphia and this is the only architectural rendering I've ever been able to find. What an embarrassment... the only non-digital rendering I have and it's of a butt-fugly building.
               As an insult to all of architecture, the site of the new building was to encroach on the house of Robert Mills, first American born and American trained architect, protege of Thomas fucking Jefferson. The solution? They moved it out of the way! It's now some rich motherfucker's private home at 8th and Locust.

The balls on these fucking people!
                       This Castle of Crud Factories was built and occupied by 1980. As per usual with ugly-as-fuck buildings, it won all kinds of architecture awards. Wills Eye only managed to keep the place for 20 years before building a brand new facility across the street and selling this stack of fuck to Jefferson. It became the Jefferson Hospital for Neuroscience in 2001.
               Since it had a huge parking garage facing Locust Street, Wills Eye added some horrifically bad public art to it by sculptor George Sugarman. The stuff did not age well and by the 00's looked much much worse:


Yay public art.
                      The light blue sculpture is well known to Philaphiles as the Pigeon Poop Memorial since it managed to get completely covered in pigeon shit. The others got covered in a combination of Pigeon Poop and Philadelphia Grit. As part of Jefferson University's 10-year Master Plan to consolidate, modernize, and beautify the campus, they attempted to do an overhaul of this building's crappy facade. They restored the crappy Sugarman sculptures and painted the entire exterior of the first level light blue. They also replaced the awning over the emergency area.

No matter how much you restore it, it still looks like shit.
                     Jefferson, good for you for trying but the fact is you can't polish a turd.


  1. I am sooo sad that I am only finding out about you now! I've learned so much about Philadelphia architecture and history just from reading your blog. Finally, someone who can comment on the architecture here in the appropriate language!

  2. That should be called "pubic" art, because it looks like a bunch of giant pubes stuck to the building sideways.