Thursday, April 26, 2012

Butt-Fugly Public Art of the Week-- April 26th

Video Arbor by Nam June Paik

Franklin Town Boulevard

How it looks most of the time-- like shit. Pic from
                      Ah jeez... Video Art. Video Installations. Video Assholeryness. These things are so fucking horrible. Sometimes art has a way of getting into realms it should never cross. Television SHOWS are more artistic than television art. Here we have a situation where the video art is so bad, its an insult to video art itself, which already sucks! Its like if your ass cancer had cancer on its ass!
                     Stupid fucking Franklintown. The worse revitalization plan in the history of concrete. Franklintown Boulevard is like no other diagonal street in town. It wasn't like the others you see in Center City that used to be highways to other towns that got taken over by the street grid. Franklintown Boulevard was artificially placed into the street grid by the dumbshits who thought Franklintown was the Philly of the future. It was originally supposed to have moving sidewalks. Seriously.

                    In 1987, 16 years after Franklintown was first proposed, the butt-fugly One Franklin Town was built. To satisfy its percent-for-art requirement, they called in a famous artist known as the Andy Warhol of Korea, Nam Jun Paik. Paik is known as the father of video art... that's like saying you're the father of asscheese.
                  Paik saw this as an opportunity to do something new. He had never designed a permanently outdoor video art display, so for this piece, he would mount 84 video monitors way up in the air on a big-ass arbor that would eventually become overgrown with shrubbery (landscape design was by John Bentley). Paik researched ways of having outdoor television sets stay functional for years and would use a technologically-advanced recording for the video sequences-- laserdisc. The tv sets would be displayed in three rows, showing two different videos at once. One is a mish-mash of corny Philadelphia images interspersed with crap, the other is geometric-looking shit changing shapes. This stupendous pile of donkey turds was dedicated in October of 1990.  It was named Video Arbor, since it is an arbor of videos. Finally... a name for an art piece that isn't pretentious as fuck.
                  The biggest problem with this piece is that it only can truly be appreciated at night. During the day, it just looks like a bunch of shitty broken tv screens with plants all over the place. Paik seems to have attempted to solve this problem by placing small reliefs of circuitboards around along with sundail and clock imagery as a distraction, but it doesn't work. 
                   As anyone could have guessed, the televisions didn't stay functional. If you put 84 TV's outside, even with the best protection, you're always going to have a few that won't work forever. Its just a matter of statistical probability. Now, 22 years later, even if the TV's were indoors there would be some fucked up ones. Its not clear when they stopped playing the video due to too many fucked up screens, but I remember seeing the them functioning in 2004.
                   Amber Dorko Stopper, a big fan of Paik's work, first noticed that the screens weren't being activated in 2006. She worked for years to get the videos back up and running. Finally, this last January, Paik's Folly aka Video Arbor was reactivated. Here's her video of it. You can see that more than half the screens don't work. Useless. 
                   Why did anyone think this piece of shit was a good idea? Video for a PERMANENT outdoor art piece? I don't think they understood what permanent meant. In 1,000 years, most of the old bronze statues and shit from the early days of Philadelphia public art will still be standing, looking the same if not better with age. That's permanence. In 1,000 years, Video Arbor, if still standing, will have wisteria covering its broken screens because no one will ever know that they used to play video. That's not permanent. That's crap.

Here's a pic from showing more of the screens working.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Parking Garage of the Week-- April 25th

Wood Street Garage

320 North Broad Street

Fuck Youuuuuuuuuuuuu!
                    Goddammit, why did they have to do this? This shitty parking garage is the ONLY structure on the West side of North Broad Street between Vine and Callowhill Streets. This! The worst part of the existence of this Parking Box is the fact that it replaced a great building. Fuck it fuck it fuck it!!
                   That's right, this parking garage replaced a perfectly good, somewhat historically significant building that was much taller than the crappy Wood Street Garage. Built 1922-1924, the Benevolent Paternal Order of Elks Lodge #2 was built as a FUBU hotel for members. It was designed by the Ballinger firm featuring Andrew J. Sauer, Lord of the Cunningham Building. After changes in city demographics and the Great Depression came along, Elk membership got so light that they moved back into their old building at Arch and Juniper.

Old ad for the hotel when it was still Elk-run.
                        After that, the building became the Broadwood Hotel, featuring the Philadelphia Playhouse Theatre. They called it the Broadwood Hotel because it was located at the corner of Broad and Wood Streets... not such a bad idea. The Broadwood became one of the city's most popular and successful hotels of the 20th Century. Not only was the theater inside an attraction, but the ballroom on the third floor was considered one of the best in America.

As the Broadwood Hotel. Pic from the PAB.
                        The Broadwood stayed open all the way up into the 1970's. Then it was converted into the Philadelphia Athletic Club. At this point, this stretch of North Broad was even shittier than it is today. The building got historically registered in 1984, but we all know that doesn't mean dick.

The Broadwood as the Philadelphia Athletic Club in 1980.
                       In the early 90's, Hahnemann Hospital decided that all the empty lots and other parking garages near their campus weren't enough. They demolished the fuck out of the old Broadwood and built the Wood Street Garage in its place, fucking up the street way more than the blighted old building ever could. Instead of keeping a beautiful historically registered building standing, they opted to screw up the block forever... what ass.
                     What's worse... they made the Wood Street garage UGLY as FUCK. At street level, instead of retail, there are prison bars. A weird 90s-ish stone-like facade was put on, but doesn't cover the whole front! Just the bottom floors and the Northern corner. That's just dumb.

Prison bar frontage on Broad Street. Image from Google.
                   Hopefully one day the surface lots adjacent to this mess will get filled in with buildings that distract away from the presence of this dirty motherfucker and we'll all joke about how this crappy parking garage was once the only thing on this part of the North Broad corridor. Don't fucking count on it.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Dead-Ass Proposal of the Week-- April 24th

Residences at the Rodin

2100 Hamilton Street

See, it even looks dead in the rendering.
                      This is one of those dead proposals like the Aerial Tramway and Parkway22. Like those others, it pretended that it was going to be built but still managed to fail. The Residences at the Rodin was yet another pathetic-ass attempt to cash in on the mid-00s building boom. Had it actually been built, it probably would be sitting there emptier than it looks in the shitty rendering above.
                      Read more at the Philadelphia Citypaper's Naked City Blog!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Mystery Building of the Week-- April 23rd

Sir Richards Tavern Building (aka Hurley's Hall aka Hurley's Hotel)

4400 Lancaster Avenue

Lots of kickass, but very little info. Image from Google.
                         This building is so fucking mysterious that the only reason anyone knows its build date is because it says it in big numbers on the facade. No one seems to know where this motherfucker came from... the history of this building consists of passing mentions and vague references. This one is a TRUE mystery.
                       This beautiful-ass motherfucker has a lot of cool shit going for it. A big tower in the corner, facade details up the ying yang, and demon faces flanking the front door (can't go wrong with that). Alterations over the years have mangled it up some but the original design of the building still shows through in a big way. If only there was some info about this thing...
                       From what I can tell, this ball-busting behemoth was commissioned by Peter E. Hurley, general manager of the Trenton and Mercer County Transit Corporation. References to a Hurley's Hotel or Hurley's Hall at this address are further evidence that he was involved. Hurley's obituary states that he left the trainmongering business for two years to do "contracting". Could this be when this Mystery Building was built?

Peter E. Hurley 1866-1918
                            The architect of the building is assumed to be Thomas Francis Miller, a prolific motherfucker who designed a shitload of buildings in the city and surrounding suburbs. One of Frank Furness's admirer/imitators, the Sir Richards Tavern Building definitely shows that influence. That's it. That's pretty much all the information that's out there about this motherfucker. There aren't even any old pictures of it, besides this one, and its not even that old:

Wow, the bottom section was already mangled in this pic from 1966.
                   More recently, this building has been known as the Building on Lancaster That's Been For Sale FOREVER. There's been a FOR SALE sign on this thing for years. Sometimes the realty company or the price changes, but it stays for sale. At one point in was going for $600K, but eventually got down to $299,000. On January 30th of this year, a Real Estate company running out of a P.O. Box in Dresher, PA bought the place for $64,900. Despite that, there's still an active listing asking for $289,900.
                   Oh, and the property tax for this 5,000 square footer is only $910. So what in the fuck is going on with this place!?!?!? Where the hell did it come from? What was its original purpose? and What the fuck!?!?!?!