Thursday, May 19, 2011

Empty Lot of the Week-- May 19

G. Fred DiBoner Lot

1919 Market Street

View Larger Map

               Did you read that address? That's at 20th and fucking Market!!!! WHY HAS THIS BEEN AN EMPTY LOT SINCE 19 FUCKING 90?!?! You would think that SOMEONE would do SOMETHING that would go the distance at this lot, but NO... we have to settle for this Pasture of Rotten Pussy, this Barren Wastleland of Nothingness, this Picket-Fenced World of Pigeon Shit.
               In the skyscraper boom of the late 80's early 90's, when the G. Fred DiBona Building next door was built, the plan was to build an identical twin right next to it. Shit changed and it never ended up happening. I'm glad it didn't happen. It would look funny to have two sets of identical towers next to each other.
               This hairy ass of a lot stayed shitty all the way into the next skyscraper boom in Philly, started off by the St. James. New and different skyscraper plans came and went into this horrible Lawn of Shame and Loathing:

Didn't fucking happen.
Definitely didn't fucking happen.
            Brandywine Realty Trust must have had too much brandywine, because now they're throwing their hat into the game. They just purchased this Desert of Development for the bargain price of 9.3 million dollars. They're being bitches about letting anybody know what their plans are, but at this point we know it will be mixed-use, which means that it will probably have three apartments and a Lidz store. They'll probably try to be cool and go for some kind of bullshit LEED certification by putting bike racks in the bathrooms and a giant recycling bin on the roof. 
            At this point, Brandywine could build pretty much anything and I'll be satisfied. The key for this lot is height. If you're going to be between two skyscrapers you'd better give me something with some meterage to it. It doesn't have to be a supertall or anything, just something that will give the skyline a little respect. Here's my design for the lot:

The Fuck You Building
                 My design incorporates an organic, sustainable material: solid rock. The form is one that is iconic to Philadelphia and serves as a welcome point to the business corridor on Market Street. It's a LEED-Kryptonite certified design, incorporating a surrounding ocean of air. Tenants will get exercise climbing rope ladders up to the offices at the top of the folded fingers. The top of the middle finger will be a LEED-Spiderweb certified open-air condo accessible by an organic, sustainable ladder made with recycled human fingernails.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Lost Building of the Week-- May 18th

Provident Life and Trust Company I and II

401 and 409 Chestnut Streets

You've been Furnessed.
                   Jesus Goddamn Rotoscoping Christ. Look at this Corner of Century-long Crotch Kicks. They sure as shit don't make 'em like this anymore. It seems to get larger as you look from ground to sky, it has conical towers up the wazoo, alternating brick colors, and little details everywhere. Hell fucking yeah.
                   It all began in 1876. Provident Life and Trust Company wanted a building on Banker's Row. The problem was that there were already a bunch of kick-ass awesome bank buildings on the Row and they wanted theirs to stand out. They had a national design contest in order to figure out who could design the most unusual and memorable building they could throw down there. Now who would win a NATIONAL architecture contest in 1876? Frank Motherfucking Furness, that's who.

Only known photograph of Frank Furness.
                 Furness didn't even try that hard. He was like "I was thinking of experimenting with a big fucking arch held up by a mishmash of cool-ass columns and different colored bricks and blocks and shit. Let me try that for this stupid insurance company's design contest. Maybe I'll add in some funny patterns and shapes...", and what he ended up with was this:

Furness designed this in like 5 minutes while sitting on the can. It took 3 years to build.
               Of course people loved it. Architecture critics gave it a big Thumbs Up. Provident Life and Trust loved what they got so much that they went back to Furness in 1888 and begged him to build a much taller addition that would reach all the way to the corner. Furness nonchalantly burped then said, "Alright, alright, keep your pants on. I'm sure I can come up with something I can use for you pussies. Now get me some chicken wings." Here's an early drawing of what he created:

                 It took less time to build and was much larger and more extravagant. Furness even threw in a pyramid-shaped roof to go over his original building and said, "That's a dunce cap for you guys for the future act of putting your next building way the fuck out at 46th and Market where it will sit rotting into the 21st Century. Fuck y'all." The new addition, which is AWESOME, is not as respected as the original structure for some reason. Even Wikipedia's article on the building calls the addition "a busy Bavarian fantasy attached to a model of creative rationalism". That's bullshit. I think the addition makes the original looks like a dead horses' ballsack.
                 Fifty-five years after its completion, the addition was destroyed. It became an Empty Lot of the Week for years next to the original, which itself was demolished fourteen years later when all the shit the facade was caked with by that point made it ugly as fuck. The building's footprint didn't end up seeing a new occupant until 1988, 39 fucking years later, when the garbage-looking Omni Hotel at Independence Park was built.
                  What a waste. This Tower to Nunchuck-shaped Diamonds could itself have been turned into a hotel to serve tourists of the Independence Historical Grass Lot Collection. It could house a Charter School if it was around today. It could have been the welcome center for the Grass Lot Collection... it looks a hell of a lot better than the two they've tried before. Shit, to keep this thing alive, I would have allowed it to become a 10 storey check-cashing place. The Dr. Scholl's Foot Fungus Museum. You could have made it a garbage storage center for 50 years and I would be satisfied... but NO. It just had to be demolished. Thanks for nuthin'.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Butt-Fugly Building of the Week-- May 17th

Parkway House Apartments

2201 Pennsylvania Ave.

Puts the Fuck in Butt-Fuckly. Photo by Phillyphotos.
                    Alright I know I'm gonna piss off some people with this one. Parkway House is a big fucking apartment-filled triangular wall of depression that has been scarring the skyline since 1952. It serves as a big fucking reminder of how architecture went bad post-WWII. It looks like the dirty, boxy, terrace-strewn apartment highrises you see in the Riverdale section of NYC all got crushed together into one stained-up mass of midcentury-modern garbage.
                 You wouldn't believe how much ass gets kissed about this building. One report I read from Architectural Research and Cultural History said "Parkway House makes clever use of "butterfly" wings, that is to say, wings set at a gentle angle from a center core." What a bunch of fracocta baloney. It looks more a giant orange-bricked butterfly crashing-landing into the ground. This building belongs in Fort Lee, New Jersey, not Philafuckingdelphia.
                This Pile of Carnivorous Donkeyshit takes all the good things about designing a building and screws them up. There are roof-decks but they're mishmashed all over the structure and have a bunch of mismatched awnings and add-ons that residents built over the years. There are bay windows but they're all vertically lined up like catapillars crawling up the crashing butterfly.
                  The main entrance faces surface parking and the back has crappy storefronts facing Spring Garden Street. Gallagher's is a nice bar but the outside looks like ass. The other storefronts are just a door and caged-up little windows. On top of all that, this place needs a good cleaning, it's got 59 years of crud caked all over it. Oh, and look at those sidewalks. What the fuck?

View Larger Map

                This Turdcastle has the distinction of being the first highrise in Philly to be designed by a woman. Therefore, any time you learn about Philadelphia architectural history this building will be mentioned and you'll have to look at another shitty picture of it. What a drag.

UPDATE!! April 16, 2013

            Exactly as my simulations predicted!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Old-ass Building of the Week-- May 16th

The Drake (formerly the Drake Hotel)

1512 Spruce Street
Fear me.
                The Drake, known to tourists as the Holy Shit What The Fuck Is That Building, was built in 1928 as a super-luxurious Hotel by some architectural firm called Ritter and Shay, who must have built this with their huge dicks as cranes. Yes, it's fucking awesome. This 375-foot tombstone of a Norse god is one of those buildings that outsiders remember when they visit. Art Deco plus Spanish Baroque equals Crazy Delicious!
                 People love to make up rumors about this thing. They always point it out to their friends and say goofy things like "Ghostbusters was filmed there" or "it was once the tallest building in Philly", which are both a bunch of bullshit. Even the building's website claims it was the tallest. City Hall started being the tallest structure on the skyline when William Penn's statue was installed in 1894, so fuck you for lying. The Drake was built 18 years after City Hall's completion date of 1910. As for the Ghostbusters thing... the building in the movie is a fucking matte painting, dumbasses.

Not the fucking Drake. 55 Central Park West with a matte painting on it, assholes.
                 But really, check this motherfucker out. It really looks great at all angles. This is one of those buildings that was designed to be seen from the air as well as the ground. From the ground it looks like a giant Juggernaut looking down at you, about to kick your ass:

I'm the Juggernaut, bitch!!!
                From the sky, you can start to notice how intricate and detailed all the little balconies and outcroppings and shit are. It's shape dominates the skyline even when you're looking down at it.

Sexy motherfucker. Photo by Duncan Pearson

                    From the side, it becomes a sliver of 1920's elegance, there to remind you that there was once a time when architects knew what the fuck they were doing.

Don't hate me cuz I'm beautiful, you dirty bastard! Photo by Christy
              What a great building. A little street called Hicks Street runs alongside this Great Wall of Habitual Badassery. It would be renamed Drake Street if that useless Streets Department had any balls. In 1998, the Drake was renovated and made into moderny condos. I guess they ran out of dough or something because they did a great job on the inside but didn't do much to clean the outside. It still remains one of the dirtier buildings on the skyline. Fix that shit.


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Philly Reel to Real-- May

Trick Baby


Yer mom likes Tricks.
                I happened upon Trick Baby about 5 years ago while flipping through channels on TV. I had remembered that it was on Wikipedia's list of "Cultural Depictions of Philadelphia", but figured it was filmed in NYC like most of the others. In the first five minutes of the movie I was going nuts trying to figure out if it was Philly or not, when I saw a familiar sight:

                 That's the side entrance to the old Colonial Hotel (now condo) at 11th and Spruce. Back then it was a crappy shitbag hotel similar to the Parker-Spruce. Here it is now:

                   This future Old-ass Building of the Week has an interesting history... but that will have to wait for another time. I remember when I saw the movie, I could see familiar buildings in the background but couldn't figure out what street they were on. Then I remembered that this movie was filmed in 1972-73, shortly before the Gallery was built. Check this shit out:

Then and Now. Where could that shit be?
                          This was the hardest motherfucker to figure out. City Hall's way in the background but looks like an unfamiliar angle. Ends up Commerce Street used to run all the way to 12th and lead into an entrance for trucks into what is now the Liquor Store at Reading Terminal Market.That's where the characters are standing. Any of you tourists out there get on one of those cheesy buses? This is just south of the pick-up spot. Here's the one that really got me going:

The cabbie's wondering why the fuck I would take a picture of this street.
                Reading Terminal's headhouse is visible plus the very top of City Hall. Where the fuck could this be? The 1000 block of Filbert, that's where. All those shit-looking storefronts from the early 70's are nicer than giant late 70's-ish blank walls and that ugly fucking Greyhound Bus Terminal. I guess the road to hell IS paved with good intentions. At least it's a little cleaner. Here's another one:

If you showed this picture to Philaphiles in 1972 they'd puke.
                    Wow, there were buildings and stuff around, almost like a city. A lot of this shit was demolished for the construction of the CCCC Tunnel Mega-Lot. The crossover bridge for that big fuck parking garage straddling 8th Street is visible in the background... looks like there was improvement made there. Here's one last one:

Back then Rittenhouse was called Shittenhouse.
                   The 20th street entrance to the Dorchester. At least the storefront at the corner was occupied. Anyway, if you're ever in the mood for spotting some 1972-1973 Philadelphia and trying to figure out what you're seeing, check out Trick Baby. There's tons of spots I wasn't able to identify... a lot of it is up on Ridge Avenue by Bolton Street. It's also fun to watch illogical travels between blocks that are far from each other. A guy runs from the Dorchester to the Italian Market in like 2 seconds. At the beginning of the movie, a guy leaves his hotel at 11th and Spruce, gets in his parked car up by Ridge Ave, and drives to the Dorchester in about 20 seconds.
                   If you want to see the ultimate Philly Reel to Real, watch this video by James Rolfe called Rocky Jumped a Park Bench.