Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Butt Fugly Building of the Week-- October 18th

Penn Mutual Tower Addition II

530 Walnut Street

                      Ah jeez, another building made of sidewalk. So they took not one, but TWO cool-looking old buildings and fucked them over with this glass-walled concrete monstrosity. What's worse is that this fuckbucket is across the street from Independence Hall, so this is some of the first Philadelphia architecture seen by people all over the world. That's a shame, right there.
                    The Penn Mutual complex is actually an interesting melange of architectural styles from different periods. There's a 1913-built section, 1931-built section, and then this 1976 cemento-castle with an 1835 facadectomied John Haviland Egyptian Revival. It started in the late 1960's. Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company wanted to throw yet another addition on to their multi-building, but wanted to save the ancient 1835 Pennsylvania Fire Insurance Company building that still survived on the same block.
                   In 1970 they found the Great Satans of Philadelphia, Mitchell and Giurgola, and asked them to complete the physical challenge. These two dumbshits came up with a building that would connect the old John Haviland building's facade with the other Penn Mutual Tower using a humongous mishmash of window and sidewalk, looking like a giant Monolith of Turd-Colored Asscheese.

They made the rendering look sleek so the Penn Mutual guys would be fooled.
They did the same thing with the model. Made it look like it wasn't made of sidewalk.
                    People lost their shit when they saw those renders. They thought this thing was going to be some kind of futuristic Tron-type building design with the Haviland facade incorporated. As the building started to be constructed in the early 70's, it became obvious that this piece of shit was just gonna be another Mitchell Giurgola concrete jumble of garbage.

Under confucktion.
                       Once it was complete, it was hailed as an amazing piece of modern architecture. People thought the retention of the old Pennsylvania Fire Insurance facade was ingenious...the place even had an observation deck from which the Independence Historical Grass Lot Collection could be viewed! Little did they know that the concrete would quickly brown-up and crumble.

Penn Mutual Observation deck. It and its accompanying exhibit hall closed in 1983.
Check this shit out.
                     Of course, like most butt-fugly buildings, this piece of shit got a shitload of design awards. Despite that, Penn Mutual said "fuck it" to this building and moved over to Horsham, PA. The building now just houses offices from a shitload of different companies along with a whole lot of air... much of the building is vacant.
                     What a shame. There was a chance to put a cool-looking building here that would fit in with the older additions and blend with the Haviland design. Too bad they handed the project over to the Great Satans. What a bummer.


  1. You are way way off base with this one. That is an award winning design and one of the best examples of later modernism in the city done by an AIA Firm of the year and AIS Gold Medal architect. Show some respect and/or get a clue about architecture.

  2. I don't care if they have all the architecture awards in the world... Mitchell and Giurgola aren't gonna get any respect from me. Their stuff is horrendous and already being replaced due to how fast it has dated and corroded.

  3. It is interesting how the design has changed since 1975. The Haviland facade was meant to be sculpture that was disconnected from the rest of the building. Over time they slowly expanded the lobby right up to the facade, ruining the effect. Several building to the east of the facade have also been demolished since then, further isolating and illustrating the facadectomy.

    However I agree, it is not the best design but still an improvement from NPS's complete demolition of the area.

  4. Meh... I distinctly remember going up the Penn Mutual Observation deck in the 1970s with a school group. That was about all about this building that I remember from that time...

  5. I watched this building rise, i was impressed at the time that the Haviland was preserved, that was a daring move at the time.I have to say I kind of like the buildings dynamic facade, but unfortunaly as you would say it's made of sidewalk which has no lasting beauty.

  6. What really sucks is that Penn Mutual closed the observation deck back in the 80s on the premise that they needed the space for offices. About 5 minutes later they started moving out to Horsham.