Thursday, March 29, 2012

Butt-Fugly Public Art of the Week-- March 29th

Open Air Aquarium by Magdalena Abakanowicz

Pier 30 (Kenilworth Street Pier, 717 South Columbus Boulevard)

Oh, that's where I put my silver turds! Image from
                          This is yet another case where Philadelphia's only piece by an otherwise very strong artist has to be a pathetic piece of rhinoceros shit. Or in this case, pieces. This is also yet another case where the Percent-for-Fart program forced a developers hand, resulting in a crappy and shoehorned-in piece of shit. I've already made it clear on this blog that the Residences at Dockside building is a Crudulous pile of Donkey Testicles. As bad as the building is, I still don't think it looks worse than the crappy art that was forced to be installed in front of it.
                          Open Air Aquarium consists of 30 stainless steel fish-like shapes on poles 12 feet off the ground in two plazas. Each fish weighs between 125 and 150 pounds and are between 6 and 8 feet long. The forms are abstract and have fucked up edges. They look like if God's silver shit fell from the sky and stopped in mid-air. It would look nicer if the sculptures actually looked like fish. It would be cornier, but not nearly as horrendous looking. 
                        This arrangement of scrap metal began when the shitty Dockside building was first proposed. The developer, Peter DePaul and the DePaul Group, was fighting to build Dockside by Piers 9 and 11 (now Race Street Pier). A firestorm of local residents and politicians forced it down to the much shittier location it ended up in, pissing off the developer. Then, once the move was confirmed, OTHER local residents and politicians forced changes in the design. As a compromise, DePaul set the building further back on Fuckface Pier and then created a small public park space in front. DePaul then assumed that the park was enough to satisfy the Percent-for-Shit requirement.
                       Construction began and the Redevelopment Authority started asking about public art. The park would not qualify and DePaul would have to drop an extra $500,000 on some government-mandated piece of fuck. After being bullied into moving their (ugly) building down to Pier 30 AND being forced to change their design once it got there, the DePaul Group had enough of this shit. They said, "Fuck the Percent-for-Art program", and attempted to be the largest project ever to be exempt since the requirement's start in 1959.
                       Since they had already started construction, it was too late to apply for an exemption. DePaul basically just said, "Fuck y'all" and went about their business with the assumption that they just wouldn't deal with it further. In the meantime, the RDA had already commissioned famous Polish artist Magdelena Abakanowicz to create those ugly ass fish you see in the picture above. Once word got out that DePaul was going to forego the Percent-for-Fart shit, backlash started coming from all sides.. especially since they accepted $6 million of government funds to reinforce the pier.
                        As usual, the press blew it out of proportion and implied that the Percent-for-Art program would end forever if DePaul got his way. Petitions swirled all over the city and internet claiming a "Percent-for-Art Crisis!!!" Mayor Street and Councilman DiCicco got their dirty asses involved, but DePaul stood strong, like he was the Rosa Parks of developers who've had enough of the bullshit. Eventually, city Commerce Director James J. Cuorato somehow convinced them to put the silvery shitfish up. The sculptures were installed in May, 2003.

Yay, fish... sorta.
                              Once installed, everyone went apeshit over them, especially because a somewhat famous artist was involved. After all, Abakanowicz's other work around the world is great. Most people just pretended that this piece was just as good as her other stuff. Even Peter DePaul pretended that he liked Open Air Aquarium. After a couple of years went by, everyone just got used to them, sort of like when you get used to an old empty lot or abandoned building. You hate that its there, but you've come to accept it.
                             Then, a hero came. In November 2005, one of the shitfish went missing! Someone had actually stolen one and sold it for scrap. Many assumed it was just a desperate thief, but I think it was a person who hated the sculptures so much that they went into a fit of rage and tried to take them down one by one, but gave up after dumping the first one into the river. To bad they couldn't finish the job. 
                            Don't get me wrong here folks... I love the Percent-for-Art requirement. The thing is, developers have a hard enough time trying to get shit built in this city. If the requirement gets to a point where the developer's bottom line gets threatened, it will discourage others to build. The Percent-for-Art requirement has brought a lot of wonderful things to this city, so it should stay alive, but I'm just saying: Let's not overdo it. Also, elephant scrotum.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Parking Garage of the Week-- March 28th

Central Parking of Philadelphia- 12th and Sansom Garage

123 South 12th Street

                     This garage right here is a grabasstic piece of horsetrash. What a useless pile of shit. Even though this garage is one of many in a neighborhood of much larger parking behemoths, it has a way of annoying the fuck out of anyone walking down 12th or Sansom Streets.
                       The address this 600-car-parking motherfucker lives on was once the site of the Borie Mansion, a large and fanciful house that was somewhat famous in its own time, but not famous enough that someone would take a good picture of it. You can only find views of it in the background of pictures of the S.S. White Building.

The Borie Mansion as seen from 12th and Chestnut.
                          The Borie Mansion was demolished around 1922 to create one of the city's earliest surface parking lots. It was pretty small, since the house next door still stood, but by the mid 1940's, had grown to about half the size the garage is now.

This photo is labeled as 1940 but I think its from 1949. The Surface Lot that would become the garage is on far left.
                         Its not clear when exactly the garage was built, but the front portion of it was put up some time between 1949 and 1959.

You can see the garage on the middle right here in 1959.
                      On June 20, 1978, the 12th and Sansom garage was sold for $1 to  Samuel Rappaport. This Rappaport guy was the king of the many 20th Century Center City Slumlords. At one point, he owned more properties in Center City than anyone else. This shitbird would buy properties cheap, sit on them, make small improvements, then sell them off for exorbitant prices. He was responsible for the blightiest times for Center City and also caused some of the NIMBYism we experience today. His death in 1994 was directly responsible for much of Center City East's renaissance.
                   The Twelfth and Sansom garage is one of the many shitty properties that still list him as an owner. Today, its managed by Central Parking Systems and has an Enterprise Rent-a-Car storefront location in it. The rear half of the garage is an addition, but there seems to be no record of when it was built. This ugly pile of trash is a like a Great Wall of Sphincters along the 1100 block of Sansom Street and is the ugliest thing on the 100 block of South 12th Street. Its even worse than the gigantic Parkway Corp garage across the street and that's saying something.
                  In the tax records, the owner is listed as Rappaport but the address given for the owner is LGI Energy Solutions of Wayzata, Minnesota. Why the fuck does a shitty little energy company in Minnesota own a parking garage in Philadelphia? The lot is zoned C5, so a two-story parking garage is a massive under-utilization of the space. Any rich developers reading this? Someone needs to buy up this thing and put it out of its misery in favor of a new building with an underground garage that has just as many spaces. Get Tony Goldman on the phone. He made 13th Street out of some of Rappaport's other remains, maybe he can help here.
                 Oh well.. we're just gonna have to live with this thing for awhile. The facade appears to be recently repainted but it still makes a long-ass boring wall down Sansom Street. Hopefully, someone in my lifetime will have the guts to wipe this motherfucker out.

Here's the Sansom Street wall. The Midtown II blocks it from crashing into Kling's crappy-ass Foederer Pavilion or whatever the fuck its called.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Dead-Ass Proposal of the Week-- March 27th

Enterprise Heights

The 4600 block of Market Street

Didn't happen.
                        This would have been a pretty badass development if it ever got its ass off the ground. This complex of buildings could have renewed energy in an extremely sorry area of the city, but it just never happened. To be fair, an extremely down-scaled version of this might actually be built, so not all hope is lost.
                         Read more at the Philadelphia Citypaper's Naked City Blog!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Mystery Building of the Week-- March 26th

HUP Offices

3930 Chestnut Street

The Church of St. Rambone!!!
                      I don't know whether to like or hate this piece of shit right here. Sometimes I look at it and think its cool, other times I look at it and hate its guts. The block this beast is on was briefly one of the hottest residential locales in the whole goddamn city, but this building shows how no one gives a shit. On top of that, its architect is unknown.
                        As stated above, the 3900 block of Chestnut was once one of the most badass addresses in town. Many a Gilded Age tycoonillionaire had their custom-built mega-mansions festooned upon this mighty street. Back then, this area was one of them many "Streetcar Suburbs" of the age, but stood out as one of the most extravagant.

In 1912, back when this was known as "Kick-ass Street"
                       Once automobiles became more popular, Chestnut became way too busy and noisy for these delicate supertycoons to deal with. They moved out to the Main Line and the mansions were left behind to rot. By the 1960's, the area was ass. The mansions were in shitty condition and it had been a looooong time since some rich motherfuckers lived here. Why am I telling you this? Because the building we're talking about was built in that time, 1966.
                     That's right, 1966. In a time when Penn's campus wasn't as close as it is today, in a time when detailless concrete boxes were all the rage downtown, in a time when this neighborhood was nowhere you would want to be, this building was constructed, looking impressively ahead of its time. It has way more style and looks way more interesting than its contemporaries of the era. The architect is a mystery, but a bigger mystery is WHY THE FUCK THEY PUT IT THERE! 
                      The building was constructed for the National Board of Medical Examiners, a non-profit organization that has existed since 1915, assessing and licensing health professionals. The NBME stayed in the building for 28 years until they moved the University City Science Center in 1994. After that, the building became home to some of HUP's offices and has stayed that way ever since.
                       Though its quite a bit tarnished, I think its actually not a bad looking building, especially for 1966. Its does the whole diagonal thing way better then the Sidney Hillman ever did. The top of the building sticks out like a church steeple on the street... the upper floors are clad with a different material than the rest. Maybe this was an addition? This building is truly mysterious, there isn't much out there about it so there's no way to know.
                   As for those great mansions, some still survive intact but most are either gone or mangled beyond recognition. This makes me hate the building, because with those old mansions, it looks silly, but anywhere else, it would probably look fine. The huge surface lot surrounding it doesn't help.Why would anyone want to drop a building like this on this block in 1966? Did Anyone give a fuck at the time? Where were the NIMBYs then? Probably nowhere.
                   West Philly, especially Chestnut Street, has a very odd mish-mash of buildings with different uses, ages, and architectural styles. Though that is true for many areas of the city, West Philly in the Market and Chestnut streets area along the 3900-4900 blocks has some odd-ass shit you'd never thought you'd see together. The 3900 block has historic mansions, an old aparment building, a new apartment building, a new-agey church, an office building, a big fucking smokestack, and a standlone Boston fucking Market. Worse yet, its not even the most unusual one!
                    I know I'm hard on NIMBYs around here but this kind of senseless Planning by Non-planning is the reason they NIMBYs exist. Many areas of Center City were also stuck in weird ruts like these West Philly blocks. Early NIMBY pioneers were the ones who kicked some ass so that certain neighborhoods could be revitalized. Those were the good NIMBY times. It wasn't until decades later, when the city started drastically changing once again, that NIMBYs started their evil missions to stop multi-hundred-million dollar skyscraper projects.
                     Getting back on topic: Anyone know the architect for 3930 Chestnut? Anyone know if that top part is an addition? Anyone know why there doesn't seem to be any old pictures of it? Also, what the fuck?