Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Butt-Fugly Building of the Week-- October 4th

Sidney Hillman Medical Center of the Men's Apparel Industry of Philadelphia

2116 Chestnut Street

Grumble Grumble
                         Yeah, that's right, I'm going there. This fucking thing is loved by many but hated by more. What a pile of garbage. I can't imagine any context where this architecture looks good. I'm pretty sure a dog's anus is a superior design. This asscastle makes the Guild House look like City Hall.
                         This thing is supposed to be "modernist". Yeah, right. This piece of shit is about as modern as the left side of my ass. What's worse is that people go fucking apenuts over this motherfucker. Supposedly, its supposed to be a great example of post-WWII early modern architecture. Since its placed on the lot on a diagonal to the street (the worst possible use of the space), people think that means something. That diagonal-to-the-street bullshit gets on my nerves. Way to slap Thomas Holme in the balls.
                         It all started with some badass Lithuanian-American named Sidney Hillman. This guy had a tough-ass life in Eastern Europe and then came to America to be a garment worker. In 1910, when his union went on super-strike, he took the lead using his Eastern European mega-toughness. I call it a super-strike because the union wasn't just on strike against its employer, it was on strike against itself. The super-strike ended with the formation of a new union, the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America.
                          Amalgamated? So the clothing workers were rendered through process of recovering precious metals from ore, using mercury? The ACWA remembered how much of a ball-buster Hillman was in the super-strike so they asked him to be their president.
                      He made the union into the creator of standards for the whole goddamn industry. His subjects got awesome working conditions and benefits. This guy was such a big dick-swinging motherfucker that he beat the shit out of communists and roundhouse kicked corrupt city officials. He even made the mafia kiss his Converse.
Sidney Hillman 1887-1946
                      The Philadelphia version of the ACWA started in 1915 as an amalgamation of several little local garment unions. They formed the Philadelphia Joint Board of the ACWA. They got large enough to open an office on South Street in 1934. In the mid-40's, the ACWA was able to get insurance and retirement plans going, and at the end of the 40's, the idea came along for full-scale prepaid medical care for all members. One revolutionary idea was going to be a medical center that would be exclusively for union members that would be built at 22nd and Chestnut, the first of its kind. They named it after Sidney Hillman in tribute to him, but it would turn out to be a huge insult.
                     For the design, they went with the firm of Louis Magaziner and Herman Polss. These two should have known better. They threw together a design with long rows of ugly windows and a beige stone exterior. It looked like a 1970's suburban elementary school, except it was 1949. Then they took it and turned it diagonal so dumbasses would think it was cool.

The model. Someone should have told 'em it looks like shit.
                     The Shitslice was built 1949-1950 and has baffled everyone who has walked by ever since. The ACWA merged with another group and became the ACTWU in 1976. Then they merged with some other motherfuckers to become UNITE in 1995, which has in turn become UNITE HERE, one ridiculously gigantic fucking acronym.
                    UNITE HERE is about done with this shitty building and started working with a Chicago developer to knock it the fuck down and build a brand new Sidney Hillman Medical Center along with a mixed-use 33-storey building. Not bad, right? Think again. Immediately after this was proposed, the NIMBYs came, this time in the form of the Preservation Alliance.
                     A controversy began over whether or not this and the other ugly boxy shit from the mid 20th Century deserved to be preserved. Their hearts are in the right place... if they were around when the INHP was tearing ass through Old City they would have saved a shitload of cool buildings... but this is going too far. This pile of bile never looked good in the first place. Future generations would shame us for not knocking down this shit.
                   The Chicago developer negotiated with the Preservation Alliance and threw them $125,000 to shut the fuck up. I guess everyone has their price. Hopefully the lengthy delay as a result of this misguided nonsense won't kill this new project. It's rare that I get to present a Butt-Fugler that will imminently be destroyed. Huzzah!

Post-NIMBY-modified design for the Fuck You Tower, or whatever the hell the new building will be called.


  1. Do you know where we can find updates on the progress of the project? It was supposed to start in September. Shame, NIMBY does it again.

  2. In 30 years, people like us now who mourn the loss of all those kick-ass Furness buildings will wonder how we let this one go. Unlike the lame ass Guide House, Hillman is nice little ass kicker.

    I only really started to appreciate Hillman in the last few years. Give it another look. There's more going on (though some of it might hiding under grime) than you may have noticed so far. The 45 degree angles of the wings are neat to look at. The marble is quite nice, and I especially like the planter areas. The lettering reminds me of the standard post office building lettering.

    It's a really good building for that era. OK that's not saying much; how bout it's a good looking building for any era... if it was cleaned up. This is pretty much why I suspect all of those Furness masterpieces were leveled; they were too damned dirty and looked like ass. Clean this sucker up and people might suddenly love it.

    Take a good last look at it before the wreckers come.

  3. Scoats: agreed. you have to imagine how it would look cleaned up. preservationists said much the same thing about all those Victorians that got torn down mid-20th century. torn down, in fact, to build things like Hillman. history repeats repeatedly. maybe preservationists will be fighting to save whatever eventually gets built here when it's all covered with bus exhaust in 60 years.

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  5. GroJ:

    Turns out I work for the local consulting architecture firm on the job. Interior demolition has begun, but because the project has seen several delays (as you mentioned) I don't know the timeline for the demolition to be finished or when new construction will begin. I have seen the plans, though, and it will be 34 stories and approximately 350 feet tall. The first five stories will be office space with the ground floor as retail. The Sidney Hillman portion will be relegated to a 5 story structure on the Sansom Street side of the lot. The rest of the floors are residential (condos or apartments, I'm not sure). The building's name is nothing spectacular, merely its address: 2116 Chestnut.

  6. what this thing replaced: http://www.curatorofshit.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/Curator_22nd-and-Chestnut_SECorner.jpg