Thursday, March 1, 2012

Butt-Fugly Public Art of the Week-- March 1st

Total Environment by Barbara Neijna

6th Street in front of Independence Place

I'm already bored with it. Pic from
                       Ya know, I'm sure that the Percent-for-Art requirement was created with all the best intentions, but the shit we've ended up with from it SUCKS. This massive piece of shit right here makes me question the whole idea. What the fuck is it? It seems to consist of a bunch of white arches, curves, stairways to nowhere, and a big blank square. What ass.
                       This comes from a sad year for Philadelphia public art, 1986. It was then that the Independence Square condo complex needed to satisfy their Percent-for-Shit requirement. The Redevelopment Authority was just expecting a single sculpture in the middle of the plaza sort of like the one that would be placed in front of the Rittenhouse Hotel two years later. Makes sense right?
                       Enter artist Barbara Neijna. She envisioned a mini sculpture garden that would encompass the whole  180' x 180' plaza with "sculpture, trees, flowers, ornamental paving, and lighting" that would be symbolic of the ancient residential architecture of Society Hill. Somehow, this lead to a bunch of white scrap aluminum being strewn all over the place. How the fuck is that supposed to relate to Society Hill?

                      This thing would work way better as a skate park. The first time I saw this piece of junk, that's what it was being used for. Back in my skateboard shop postal worker days (long story), I saw a video of skateboarder Mike Vallely skating on the halfpipe-looking part of this thing and fighting with the security guard. I tried my damnedest to find the video for this article, but I couldn't. If anyone out there has it or knows where I can find it, I'll add it. Maybe all this crap can be moved over to that skate park that's been planned (but never built) for the Schuylkill River Trail for the last 500 years.

The halfpipe on the right is what he was skating on. Pic from
                   I don't understand why so many pieces of art have to be named so stupidly. This one is called Total Environment. Total Environment? Total Enasserment!!! How is a bunch of shitty aluminum a TOTAL environment? Its barely any kind of environment!! Should have called it White Aluminum From Your Ass. Motherfuckers.

Aerial photo of the Enasserment from Bing.
                              All that had to do was put a cool figural statue in the middle of that plaza and it would look just fine. The Rittenhouse Hotel one is pretty nice... it leaves room for plantings and doesn't beat you over the head with stupidity. The Percent-for-Fart requirement needs to establish some kind of standard so we don't end up scarring the streetscape with crap like this for decades. This shit is a Crapintosh Apple.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Lost Bridge of the Week-- February 29th

Chestnut Street Bridge

Spanning the Schuylkill River at Chestnut Street

Could have called it Spiderman Bridge
                         And now... time to present a Wonder of the Motherfucking World, the Chestnut Street Bridge. This cast iron motherfucker was a point of pride for Philadelphians, Pennsylvanians, Americans... actually it was a point of pride for all humans. This Triumphant Truss of Terror was one of Phillly's greatest treasures that we'll NEVER get back.
                         This beast was so cool-looking that it gave reason for people to walk down the Schuylkill Banks before they ever had a trail or a highway running along them. The motherfucker took nine years of preparation and five years to build.
                         It all started in 1852. The only bridges across the Schuykill that were any damn good were at Market Street and Spring Garden Street. Every other one was either a shitbag pontoon bridge or some crappy covered bridge that would get washed away in any bad storm. The two real bridges were getting to be over-run with traffic. On March 27th of that year, and act passed stating that there should be bridges built at Callowhill and Chestnut Streets, the streets next to the current bridges, to alleviate some of that shitty traffic.
                        Enter all-around badass Strickland Kneass, the city's chief engineer. He came up with an idea for a bridge at Chestnut Street that would blow the fucking socks off any other in the WORLD. While people once loved the high-tech offerings of the Wire Bridge at Fairmount, its day was over. A new bridge would be needed to impress engineering ninjas everywhere. Once Kneass presented his plan in 1857 (after at least two more Acts demanding it were passed), people went apeshit over everything about it.. except for the cost. Half a million bones.
                         In the 1850's, half a million dollars was like saying a billion bajillion dollars today. After three years, some money was thrown in by local railroad interests so the thing could just get built already. Construction began in 1860.
                         Then, right as preparations for the construction began, the city's Master Warden, Charles S. Wayne, said "Fuck you, Kneass! This is my river!! You're not putting coffer dams in the middle of it, you dirty bastard!!", and sued the fuck out of the city. His case was dismissed the day it went to trial. Ends up that the Master Warden's jurisdiction ends at the shoreline. The dumbass Chief Warden almost stopped this project from ever happening. After five long years of construction, the bridge finally opened on June 23rd, 1866... and it wasn't even really done yet.

                    The huge arch-shaped ribs spanning halfway across the bridge came in sets of eight and were 185 feet long each. It was figured that the heaviest load that could ever cross the bridge would only have 1/28th the weight to break an individual rib. The cast iron flexed a whole 2 and 5/16th inches. You could roll a fucking tank over this thing! Also, this beautiful bridge (briefly) had a deck of square granite blocks that must have looked pretty fucking cool.
                    Once open, this became THE way across the Schuylkill.  Philadelphia's newest bridge became the envy of the world and was referred to as a great specimen of design and engineering. As the decades passed, the bridge stayed in continuous use with very little maintenance. In 1911, the approaches to be bridge were widened to support the shitload of people that were all about crossing this bridge, despite the fact that newer alternate bridges had been built up and down the river by this point.
                    In 1956, ninety years after the bridge opened, a proposal to take it down and replace it with a  FUCKING HIGHWAY OVERPASS-looking piece of dogshit was floated around. Ends up the western abutment was standing in the way of progress.

From this...

to THIS. What a travesty.
                 Kneass' beautiful Chestnut Street Bridge got its ass destroyed in 1958, replaced with the piece of shit that's still crumbling there today. The next time you cross the Chestnut Street Bridge and notice how boring it is and how shitty the condition its in, just remember that the same piers once held up a magnificent crossing that was hailed by the motherfucking world.

Look at that shit... and you can see this week's Mystery Building on the left!
Here's the bridge at age 89. Just a reminder of when shit looked good.
                      On another note, I must announce that this will be the last Lost Bridge article. Get set to see a new category coming to every other Wednesday here on Philaphilia! 

                                                          -GroJLart, King of Philadelphia and France

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Dead-Ass Proposal of the Week-- February 28th

Kimpton-Monaco Hotel & Boyd Restoration

1910 Chestnut Street

This could have been cool.
                   Its a shame this one never got built. This cool-looking hotel tower wasn't just going to be a fancy hotel in a neighborhood sorely in need of new some new shit... this was also going to be a restoration of Center City's last surviving old time theater palace, the Boyd. Despite the appearance of being a go, circumstances got in the way and this proposal is now as dead as a dead dog's dick.
                   Read more  on the Philadelphia City Paper's Naked City Blog!!!

-GroJLart, King of Philadelphia and France

Monday, February 27, 2012

Mystery Building of the Week-- February 27th

Marketplace Design Center (aka Guaranty Industrial Building, a.k.a the Loft Building)

2400 Market Street

Here it is.
                         Known to most people as the Long Building with the Whales, the Marketplace Design Center appears to have popped up mysteriously in the early 20th Century and kept on truckin' despite numerous plans to take it down. Though most of its history is known, how it got to be there is still a mystery.
                         In 1915, the space along the Schuylkill River between Market and Chestnut Streets was an empty lot that was itching for development. At one point in time, a plan was floated for a Convention Hall that would not only fill the space but cover the Baltimore and Ohio railroad tracks that ran through. The old Furness-designed B & O station was just across the street on Chestnut.

Empty Lot of the Year, 1915. The old B & O Station is in the background.

If this was built, the Schuylkill River Trail would be much different today.
                   Needless to say, it never happened. The Convention Hall was built over by the UPenn Museum and was demolished in 2005 to make way for some HUP Shit. This is where the mystery begins. Some time between 1915 and 1922, the Marketplace Design Center building was built. The owners were J. E. Gomery and J. C. Schwartz, founders of the Gomery-Schwartz car company. The building's architect, name, and purpose are unknown, but it must be assumed that the building was used for the car company, since it was built with two-way ramps that went up to each super-reinforced floor.
                 In 1922, Gomery-Schwartz's corporation became known as the Guaranty Corporation, and the building finally got a verifiable name: The Guaranty Industrial Building. The Hudson-Essex car company did truck service and repair on the first, fourth, and fifth floors. They also got their name emblazoned on the building where the whales are now. The second floor was used as a showroom rental space, much the same purpose it has now, and the remaining floors were used by Gomery-Schwartz.
                Strangely enough, when the structure became the Guaranty Industrial Building, the articles that announce it make a point of saying that the architect and construction cost was unknown. So it was even a mystery back then!!! That shit's fucked up, yo.

Here it is in 1930.
                     Only eight years later, the Guaranty Industrial Building was being eyed up by the then Pennsylvania Railroad-owned B & O Railroad to be demolished to make way for their new Philly station. One fucking hell of a station.

A lot of people think that this is an alternate design for 30th Street Station. They are WRONG. However, B & O was owned by Pennsylvania Railroad at this point, so it was probably a non-starter.
                   Geez, talk about a Dead-Ass Proposal. That's one hell of a building. Obviously, it never happened. The building languished on for decades as crappy industrial space (called the Loft Building) until becoming the Marketplace Design Center, a rather unique use for this kind of building. Check out their website to see all the shit they do... to write it all here would make this article reach Sirius C.
                   The mystery remains... what year was it built? Who was the architect? and What the fuck!?!?!?!