Thursday, May 10, 2012

Butt-Fugly Public Art of the Week-- May 10th

Christoper Columbus Monument by Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates

Columbus Boulevard at Dock Street

Is that supposed to be what Columbus's dick looked like? Pic from
                      This thing looks ridiculous, and gets worse and worse as you get closer to it. The Columbus Memorial is probably the ugliest obelisk in the history of civilization. One of the biggest pieces of public art in the city, this steel Columbus Cock gives all Philadelphia public art a bad name.
                     Since 1975, the official quincentennial anniversary celebration of Chistopher Columbus's landing in the New World was being planned for Philadelphia. Endless groups and committees and corporations were created to plan the massive two-day international parade and party. In 1989, one of the groups, the American 500 Corporation, commissioned what would become the piece de resistance of the event, a massive quincentennial memorial that was touted as "changing the skyline".
                   When people heard "changing the skyline" they went nuts over it. To actually effect the Philadelphia skyline, it would have to be HUGE!! Then they got Robert Venturi's firm, the demons behind the butt-fugly Guild House and other assorted atrocities, to come up with the design. Big mistake! Venturi's people created a steel tower of panels that hang from a central pole. At the top would be a weathervane shaped like Italy and Spain's flags and the bottom would be walls of useless text.

The maquette of an early version of the design.
                  The super-geniouses at Venturi thought that the memorial should be an obelisk, since Columbus was Italian and many obelisks can be found in Rome. That's just dumb. The only reason Rome has obelisks is because Ancient Roman emperors thought the ones in Egypt were cool, so they would either capture them or build copies. In later centuries, popes thought they were cool so some more were built and so on and so on... but really, obelisks are for Egyptians. Using an obelisk in this way to memorialize Columbus would be like using a statue of Alyssa Milano to memorialize the Tokugawa Shogunate.

At about the same time the Columbus Memorial was being created, Allysa Milano was very popular in Japan.
                       In June 1992, three years and $1.05 million dollars later, the piece of junk was built. Once it was done, the people who were orignally so excited about it threw up in their own mouths. The tower was a massive disappointment and definitely did not change the skyline at only 106 feet tall. A few months later, the gigantic quincentennial event, named "Land Ho! Philadelphia Columbus Day Weekend" (lol), went off without a hitch. The grande finale of the weekend would be the official unveiling of this ugly steel fuckstick accompanied by a gigantic fireworks display.

From the celebration.
                   In 1993, the Pennsylvania Society of Architects gave it the Design Award for Excellence in Architectural Design. Venturi's ass must be covered in scars from how much its been kissed. Twenty years later, no one cares. The stupid monument just sits there collecting pigeonshit, barely noticed despite its "skyline changing" size. Some people make the mistake of attempting to read the wall of text found on all sides of it, which is stupid.

They crossed his name out! Pic from
                        Among the labels Mathematician and Cartographer are crazy ones on the other sides like Naturalist and Charismatic Leader. There's some kiss-ass info about Columbus and the names of every last human being that had something to do with the creation of the monument. Among them, it says "the Honorable Vincent J. Fumo". Honorable? That alone is a reason this thing sucks.
                      We were supposed to get a Columbus's discovery-related memorial that would change the skyline, but instead we got a big metal pud. If it was dicks they wanted, they should have asked for a 500-foot statue of Columbus with 500 cocks that would snake all around the neighborhood with speakers at the tips that would forever play David Hasselhoff music. That would be more appropriate than this mess. Fuck.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Parking Garage of the Week-- May 9th

Interpark Parking Garage

1327 Locust Street

                   This parking garage is a disgrace for numerous reasons. Its ugly, its big, its in a location that should have something better, and it replaced a goddamn Furness masterpiece. This is shit!!!
                 You read it right... this shitbird parking garage replaced one of Furness' greatest structures, his version of the Library Company of Philadelphia. Completed in 1880, it was a Megacastle of Librarian Cockcurls that graced the corner of Juniper and Locust for 60 years while the neighborhood was known as Library Row.

Imperial Fortress of Chancellor Kickass in 1899. Pic from the PAB.
                     In the 1930's, the Library Company was hurting for cash. They begrudgingly built their new HQ at 900 South Broad and everyone hated it. The organization started to go broke from lack of membership and gross mismanagement of finances. The Librarian of the period was an Englishman named Austin Gray. This dumbass barely knew what could be found in the library's collection and thought publishing a badly written history of the organization would garner support and raise funds. The idea failed.
                      In 1940, the money problems grew exponentially. Gray's new bright idea would get two birds stoned at once... knock down the money-draining but awesome Furness library and install a money-making surface parking lot.

The surface lot in 1948.
                   The lot became the third Luckless Lot of Library Row and was a smashing success. The Library Company had a Percentage Lease deal with the lot operator, so they collected a rent that was proportional to the lot's profits, which were HUGE. In 1949, profits were so good that the Library Company decided to build a massive parking garage on the site that could hold 541 cars. This, then, is the birth of this awful parking garage.
                  By 1952, the parking garage had paid for itself and the Library Company had more money than it could handle. A new Librarian who quit the Rosenbach, Edwin Wolf, took over Library Company and revamped the fuck out of it using the newly acquired riches. Eventually, they sold off the parking garage.

The garage is visible in the center of this image from 1959.
                     For six decades, the shitbird-ass mega-garage would continue to operate, all the way to here in the present. It has stood three years longer than the Furness Library Company building did. The lights in the word "PARK" out front barely work and the rear is a bum bathroom. Being that the facade was recently painted beige, it appears that this giant piece of dung is not going anywhere. The current owner, a Delaware-based company with a Scottsdale, Arizona address, bought the garage in May of 2000 for $10 and has been sitting on it ever since.
                    What a shitty garage. The location is zoned C-5, so a fucking skyscraper could go here if the owner had the balls to sell-off this parking goldmine to a developer with a Scrotum of Steel. I remember seeing a plan where this shitgarage and the Pigeonhole Parking building would be demolished and replaced with a skyscraper, but that was probably just a fantasy. One day, this 63 year old parking garage will meet its fucking maker and we'll get a nice building here. Don't get your fucking hopes up. 

Its just keeps going and going and going. I'd rather have a Furness.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Dead-Ass Proposal of the Week-- May 8th

South Bridge

734 Schuylkill Avenue

                  Hey! That's not a bridge! This proposal right here generated lots of excitement and anticipation but ended up falling to shit. While multitudes of successful building proposals and construction projects were (and still are) being built in Southwest Center City, this one was by far the most bold... and the most failed.
                 Read more later today at the Philadelphia Citypaper's Naked City Blog!!!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Mystery Building of the Week-- May 7th

Haverford Bicycle Company Ruin

448 North 10th Street

                      This is a cool fucking building. This big-ass motherfucker is one of the Loft District's surviving industrial buildings that is yet to be fully redeveloped. Though its roughly known where the building came from and why it was built, the structure still is replete with mysteries.
                      This 47,448 square foot behemoth will probably one day become the coolest apartment building on the Reading Viaduct, but for now, it'll continue to sit there, looking like shit. This beastoid was built around 1917 or 1918 (nobody really knows) for the Haverford Cycle Company. The ONLY reason anyone knows this is because of the ghost signs on the building stating "The Bicycle with a National Reputation".
Here's the cover to one of their catalogues, but its from before they moved to this building.
                      Some Philadelphia Speaks users were the ones who investigated the ghost signs and were able to find the record from March 1919 stating that a Max M. Sladkin purchased the land at 10th and Buttonwood for the Haverford Cycle Company with the intention of developing a bicycle factory. The only issue I have with this evidence is that another group called the Philadelphia Supplies Company claims the same address as their headquarters from 1916-1927.. so WHAT THE FUCK?!?!!
                    Haverford Cycle Company made bicycles, motorcycles, and a shitload of accessories. They existed until 1924. Other than that, there's no other records of this building's existence until 1998 when the Cuckleberger Storage Company bought the place for $170,000. Even when you look up this building's 3 addresses (1002-04 Buttonwood, 448 North 10th, and 1001-03 Hamilton), nothing comes up. Maybe some bicycle enthusiast out there knows what's up.
                    The architect for this monster is unknown but whomever it was must have been pretty good... the surviving pieces of original facade are pretty badass. It also appears that the top three floors and the abutment on the eastern side are both additions from an unknown time. The top floor seems to have been recently renovated as an office space.

Interior of the top floor (I think). From the building's new real estate listing.
                 So that's pretty much it... this building does a pretty good job of being a complete and total mystery... there's no old pictures of it other than some blurry aerial photos and one pic from 1960 where you can sort of see it behind another building, looking almost the same as it does today. What a pisser.
                 Due to the nearly inevitable greening of the Reading Viaduct, this building won't stay empty and ugly for long. Its currently for sale for $2.5 million... hopefully some developer with a titanium nutsack will come along and rehab this motherfucker to its full potential.

Pic of one of the floors from the real estate listing.
                          So... anyone know what this building was doing for most of the 20th Century? Who the architect is? How long Haverford Bicycle Company was there? and What the fuck!?!?!?!