Thursday, February 2, 2012

Butt-Fugly Public Art of the Week-- February 2nd

Milord La Chamere by Jean DuBuffet

1530 Market Street

Drawing or sculpture. Make up your fucking mind!!! Pic from
                         You know, there's actually some really good DuBuffet sculptures out there, but for some reason, we're stuck with this nasty pile of steel shit-turds. This throw-away sculpture by Jean Dubuffet is so nasty that it lives in an unnoticeable and forgotten corner of the 1500 block of Market Street. Most people walk right by this thing without even seeing it.
                          Centre Square gets the Percent-for-Art Triple Crown for Shitty Public Artwork. All three pieces created for this set of butt-fugly buildings are trash. Developer Jack Wolgin, who must have a PhD in Dumbassian Studies from Simpleton University, wanted this particular sculpture because he thought it looked like a Mummer. Ok, so it does SORT OF look like a Mummer. You know what would've been even better, Jack? A STATUE OF AN ACTUAL MUMMER!! Dicktree!!
                        DuBuffet created this 24-foot-tall, 5,000 pound monstrosity in 1972 to 1973. It sat in front of the Seagram Building in New York City in 1974 and 1975. Wolgin pooped his pants upon seeing it and shoehorned it into his shitbag Centre Square complex in 1976. Originally, it stood indoors, in the middle of the atrium between the buildings. When new owners took hold of the building in 1990, they hated it so much that they moved it outside to the little alcove it sits in now, hoping that all the birdshit stains would tarnish the stainless steel enough to make it look a bit more interesting.
                   Milord La Chamere means "My Lord of the Fancy Vest". Its more like My Lord of the Stainless Steel Assfruit. What you can't see in the picture above is how the figure is standing on granite base supported by a ten foot tall steel column. What the fuck is that supposed to mean? Are we supposed to worship this scribble scrabble of nonsense? Fuck that shit. Actually, its on that base because when it was on display in the atrium, it rose up from the lower levels up to ground level.
                  In 2003, Centre Square's new owners said that they would move Milord La Merde to a more prominent location than the shitty alcove it sits in. Nine years later, it still hasn't moved. Good. Fuck it.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Lost Bridge of the Week-- February 1st

Callowhill Street Bridge (aka Fairmount Bridge, aka Spring Garden Street Bridge)

Spanning the Schuylkill River at Callowhill and Spring Garden Streets

1890. That's a nice looking bridge right there.
                     This bridge was built to make all previous Schuylkill River bridges look like dead racoon's ass. This beast was designed to be the most badass bridge that people had ever seen, and for awhile, lived up to that requirement.          
                     With the super-awesome Centennial Exhibition approaching, Philadelphia needed cool new shit to show off for the multitude of guests from around the world that would be visiting the city. The iconic Wire Bridge at Fairmount was getting old at this point and the retro look was definitely not in. The Centennial Exhibition was about innovation and the future. Let the shitty-ass Sesquicentennial Exhibition be about the past.
               They took down the kick-ass Wire Bridge at Fairmount and contracted famous bridge engineer J. H. Linville and the Keystone Bridge Company to design a super kickasstastic mega bridge that would stand out as the finest and most high-tech in the union. Linville pulled out all the stops and designed a double-decked rail and pedestrian bridge that connected Callowhill Street AND Spring Garden Street on either side of the river. It would be 48 feet wide, running 1,254 feet, (350 over the river) with 2,730 foot approaches on either side.
                The approaches were designed by Strickland Kneass and pissed Linville the fuck off. Linville didn't want the bridge to have decorated arches because then it would look way too cool, but Kneass went ahead and made the approaches all arched, so Linville was forced to continue the arches through the bridge structure. Just to be an asshole, he created a Whipple Truss wrought iron superstructure and tacked some non-weightbearing cast iron arches along the sides.
                    Construction began in 1874 and the bridge opened in 1875. The pricetag? 1.2 million dollars... a ridiculously high amount for the time.

Under construction.
                       Once complete, people loved this fucking thing. The railroad ran on the upper deck and carriages/pedestrians ran on the lower. Tourist guides from the era actually encouraged visitors to get off their trains, walk across the lower deck, and reboard the train on the other side.

Approach to the lower level. They sure don't make 'em like this anymore.
                The wrought iron framework and the cast iron arches were extremely vulnerable to rust. The bridge rusted right up shortly after it was built. The motherfucker was turning orange and by 1885, big-ass chunks of rust were falling from the upper deck to the lower deck. It got so bad that they had to employ motherfuckers who would clean off the fallen chunks.
                By 1900, people had enough of this shit. The cast iron arches on the bridge were removed and a new metal framework was built for the approaches. For the rest of its existence, the bridge would expose its less-exciting wrought iron Whipple Trusses.

1904 view of De-Arched Callowhill Street Bridge
           By 1917, everyone forgot about the grandeur of the original bridge. They even forgot its name... they started calling it the Spring Garden Bridge instead. Talk of widening or rebuilding the bridge began at about this time, but never happened.

The Lower Deck in 1954.
                  The span stayed in continuous use until Interstate 76 was built and started to get in the way of the lower deck. In the mid 60's, a plan to add a Spring Garden Street exit from the highway was created, and the old girl wasn't up to the task of having that kind of connection. In 1964, the 89 year old bridge was lowered onto a barge and hauled away. A plaque commemorating this bridge is present on the new one, but the illustration on it shows the crappy Whipple Truss version.
                   This bridge shows how something that was cool as fuck in 1875 could be considered a piece of shit only 20-some years later. The next time you go over the modern highway-ramp style version of this bridge, make sure to piss out the window in honor of its great predecessor.

1960 skyline view from the last years of the Callowhill Street Bridge.


Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Dead-Ass Proposal of the Week-- January 31st

Philadelphia River City

Not really a whole city, just a buttload of ugly buildings.
                       Now here's a project that would have definitely changed things in good ol' Philadelphia, but was pretty much doomed from the get-go. This Dead-Ass Proposal was for a 8-acre, 15 million square foot, 15-year-long, 3.5 billion dollar master plan for at least 10 tall buildings that would cover the the Schuylkill Sea and the CSX and Septa rail tracks. Back in the early days of Philaphilia, I blamed NIMBYs for this huge development not going forward, but it ends up that corrupt-ass city officials and developers were just as responsible. Don't think that means NIMBYs didn't go balls-out apeshit over it.
                       Read more at the Philadelphia City Paper's Naked City Blog later today! Here it is!!

---GroJLart, King of Philadelphia and France

Monday, January 30, 2012

Mystery Building of the Week-- January 30th

That New Apartment Building in Season City

211 North Camac Street

What the fuck is this?
                    The mysterious neighborhood between the Convention Center and Vine Street Expressway has a new almost-tall building.... that no one seems to know a damn thing about. This building popped up almost overnight and only started getting noticed when it got tall enough to be seen from 676. Does it have a name? An architect? An owner? An ANYTHING?
                   I'm starting to have a small obsession with this small region of streets bounded by Broad, Race, Vine, and North Marvine Street. What the fuck is up with it? Some might consider it West Chinatown, but that's a bunch of bullshit... so I have the honor of being the one to give this neighborhood its OFFICIAL name. You heard it here first, the neighborhood is called... Season City.   Eat that, real estate agents.
                 Why Season City? Its the only area of Center City where both Spring and Summer Streets can be found in the same block. Winter Street also ran through here, but the Vine Street Expressway took it down. Who wouldn't want to build in a place called Season City? An asshole, that's who.

Season City skyline. Just ignore the awesome tall buildings in the background. The mystery building is blocking the view of City Hall.
                  This eerie new building started out as a regular crappy warehouse/garage that has had owner after owner over the decades since it was built in the 40's or 50's. In 2008, the Fujian Investment Group, which is the same name of like 30 other individual companies, purchased the property for $900,000. On May 13, 2009, they applied for a Zoning Variance to add six stories to the old warehouse and build 24 apartments.
                 No one knew or cared about it until construction began in February of 2011.

It begins. Pic from Philly Bricks.
                  Whomever this Fujian Investment Group is, I'm glad he/she sees the value of Season City. Perhaps this will inspire someone to get a hold of all those empty lots and single-story parking garages that plague this tiny neighborhood.
                 The building doesn't appear to be completed yet and there's no signage or anything on it... usually an apartment building this close to being finished has a big-ass "FOR LEASE" sign on it, but this one doesn't have shit. Its also ugly as fuck... but I don't care, Season City needs all the development it can get. Considering the massive success of all the parking lots nearby, more development ain't happening any time soon, but should. So the questions remain... Where the fuck did this thing come from? Who designed it? How come the multitude of websites that talk about Philadelphia development barely ever mentioned it?      
                Its funny that major developers can propose new projects years in advance and produce rendering after rendering and plan a building down every last detail, then never get it built. Fujian Investment Group, whoever the fuck that is, was able to propose and construct this building with barely anyone noticing. That's the power of Season City, I guess.