Thursday, May 24, 2012

Butt-Fugly Public Art of the Week-- May 24th

Bolt of Lightning  by Isamu Noguchi

200 North 6th Street

Trash. Image by
                                I'm definitely not the first one to talk shit about this big metal pile of fuck. It looks like a beacon used to contact anal probing aliens. Bolt of Lightning doesn't just look like butt, its in a butt location as well. You take your life into your hands trying to get near this thing.
                              Legend has it that the artist, Isamu Noguchi, first conceived of this assfruit in 1933. The Fairmount Part Art Association held its first Sculpture International exhibition in that year, part of which was a competition for a new sculpture for Fairmount Park along West River Drive.  Noguchi contributed a bunch of sculptures and drawings to the cause. Supposedly, one of the drawings was of a monument to Ben Franklin depicting that whole "kite and key" thing. Noguchi claimed he was inspired by radio towers.
                            In 1979, the Philadelphia Museum of Art had a retrospective exhibiting all of Noguchi's shit from over the years. Among the items exhibited was the old sketch of the giant streel whale dildo. Trustees from the Fairmount Park Art Association peeped the drawing and talked about getting it built in honor of the city's upcoming tricentennial in 1982. Noguchi was commissioned to develop the sketch into a buildable mega-kite of imperial cockmeat.

Model of the final design from
                        Because it would be a such a top-heavy design, Noguchi had to consult with NYC engineering firm Weidlinger Associates to figure out how the fuck this 58 ton monster would stay standing. Guy wires were added to hold the motherfucker up. Of course, Noguchi had to make up some bullshit about the wires being "the eternal and essential contact between air and earth". What nonsense.
                       Despite originally being conceived to stand in Fairmount Park, the FPAA gave Noguchi the choice of location. Noguchi then made the worst fucking decision of his life. He wanted the 106-foot sculpture to stand in Memorial Park, the nearly unreachable plaza at the foot of the Ben Franklin Bridge. That big triangular "park" was originally designed to be an underground trolley transfer hub... it was never completed. This caused a shitty sculpture to be standing in a shitty spot. Only zooming motorists would ever get close enough to look at it. Just try to cross over to Memorial Park during rush hour. You will die.
                   The final design is ridiculous. Why is the lightning bolt UNDER the kite? Why does it look like the key is holding the kite? Why did anyone ever think this was good? Bah. Legend has it that the design was considered so ugly that DRPA only approved it because it might distract away from an upcoming bridge toll hike. With some city money and a big-ass grant from the estate of George Dunton Widener (Bringer of the Ritz Carlton who went down with the Titanic), the $865,000 skyturd was built and dedicated on September 16th, 1984, 2 years overdue.
                       Once completed, Bolt of Lightning got its ass kissed by some and rightly shit upon by others. "...Fails in its intended purpose by every major criterion" is probably the best official dig the press took at the sculpture. That quote pretty much sums it up like how Carl Sagan on Cosmos would sum up a huge astrological concept into one sentence that explains the entire thing.

"Billions of billions of Fuck" -Carl Sagan standing in front of Boston's brutalist City Hall.
                        I agree that there should be a large sculpture depicting the kite and key story, but this is definitely not it. Instead of that stupid lightning kite, there should be a 100-foot statue/fountain of Ben Franklin that would piss water onto the incoming cars from the bridge. Give those suburbanites a good ol' Philly welcome they will never forget. I don't know what that has to do with the kite and key, but fuck it.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Parking Garage of the Week-- May 23rd

The Lift

101 South Juniper Street

               Now this is what should be done with all parking garages. Though its probably gonna look ridiculous in 20 years, for the time being, this is way better than your typical shitty parking garage. Though almost 50 years old, the Lift's makeover in recent years makes it one of the most advanced above-ground garages in the region.
                The site this carbox sits on was home to a VERY lost building. The Drury Building stood for six decades at 101 South Juniper but no one ever took a picture of it or added it to any record of ANYTHING. The only picture of it is a grainy aerial photo where you can only see the roof. Carbon Paper was produced there for years until it became home to Edgar V. Seeler's architecture firm. Its storefront held the second-ever Horn and Hardart's location.
                In 1961, Philadelphia Penny-Park, Inc. proposed what they used to call a "pigeonhole parking" structure for the site. The ugly-ass one on Broad Street had just been completed and this new one would improve upon its design. It would have a more advanced automated parking system and, unlike the Broad Street one, provide storefronts along Juniper Street.
Rendering of the garage in 1961.
                   The beast cost $1.2 million and was designed to hold 245 cars. After being completed in the mid-60's, no one gave a shit about it anymore. It fell into obscurity almost immediately. Flash forward to the early 21st Century. By this point, the garage was no longer in use and was solely dedicated to its crappy Juniper Street storefronts. Among its last tenants were a cafe/donut shop called Lil' Spot and a graffiti supply store called Rarebreed.

Remember this? Image by Charles Hess.
                    Lil' Spot had some kick-ass homemade donuts. Back when I worked on Market East, I would stop there every morning for coffee and a shitload of those little fresh donuts that were only seconds old when consumed. At some point in time, someone left the garage's stairway door open, causing the guys from Rarebreed to go up the rickety broken stairs of the place and tag the shit out of all the floors, turning the old Penny-Park into a Graffiti Art Gallery. I once had the privilege of climbing those broken stairs in pitch black darkness to check out floor after floor of graffiti murality. It was pretty cool once you got over the trauma of almost falling through the stairs like eight times.
                         With the Tony Goldman Renaissance of nearby 13th Street, the neighborhood's parking needs went way up (despite having a shitload of pre-existing garages in every direction). On March 18th, 2006, Brandywine Realty Trust purchased the ol' Penny-Park for $2.25 million and kicked the tenants the fuck out. Rarebreed was the only survivor, lasting a few more years near South Street. Brandywine then spent the next few years gutting and renovating the garage. It took fucking FOREVER, blocking Juniper Street for months at a time.

Toward the end of construction in January, 2010 with street blocked. Pic by member Muji.
                     The cool thing about this renovation is that they took a fucked-up old parking garage and made it almost look like a building. They added polycarbonate and glass panels to pretty up the place and renamed it The Lift. Not only does it park 240 cars with super-fast retrieval time, its one of only 11 of its kind in the nation. And for all you environment nerds out there, this place is actually eco-friendly! Whoda thunk it? The only problem I have with the place is that the storefronts are lost.
                     When the renovation was first being done, rumors swirled around stating that if this thing was successful, other parking garages would be redone in the same way. Well... The Lift has been open for awhile now... hopefully Brandywine will be inspired to start on some other garages. I suggest the butt-fugly Pigeonhole Parking building on Broad Street. Get to it, Brandyfucks!!
Just a reminder of what it looked like for decades. Photo by Tim McFarlane

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Dead-Ass Proposal of the Week-- May 22nd

1601 Vine

1601 Vine Street

Not happening.
                        Now this one's a real pisser... a perfectly good project that was approved up the ying yang and had finances in place before getting offed by the shitbird economy. All that's left here is a crappy surface parking lot. Though there are some current plans for this site, nothing that ends up getting built here will be as cool as this.
                      Read more at the Philadelphia Citypaper's Naked City Blog!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Mystery Butt-Fugly Building of the Week-- May 21st

Center City One

1326 Spruce Street

                     This has to be one of the ugliest buildings over 250 feet tall. Center City One is a butt-fugly brutalist behemoth that has tarnished the 1300 block of Spruce for the last 38 years. Though built somewhat recently, its so nasty looking that no one wants to own up to developing or designing it. This sidewalk-structured shitsnack has a million things working against it.
                    The land this brutal piece of shit sits on started its development life as the same kind of large 1830's-50's era rowmansions you can find on the rest of Spruce Street east of Broad. 

Spruce and Juniper in 1930. The houses are already almost 100 years old in this pic.
                     By the 1940's, the site of Center City One was a generational surface parking lot. It would stay that way until 1974, when the giant concrete shitbird was built. Who built it, who designed it, who developed it, whose dumbass idea it was in the first place, are all a mystery. Where the fuck did this ugly thing come from?
                      Whoever designed this shit really dropped the ball. First of all, there are no other 270-foot buildings even close to this thing. The Atlantic Building is the only thing that's similarly tall, but its on the other side of Broad Street. I usually enjoy a nice tall building, but this one is so fucking ugly, it makes me understand the NIMBY mentality. You can't avoid looking at this thing!

View of the building from NIMBY-occupied territory.
                    Second, the entire motherfucker is exposed concrete... did anyone think for a second what it might look like 40 years later? The facade is browned-up and shitty looking like any 40 year old sidewalk. Ever see this building when it rains? It becomes all moist and dark brown. In this case, I'm not exaggerating when I say IT LOOKS LIKE SHIT!!!
                    Third, Center City One does a really shitty job of meeting the street. The street-level retail is set back in a dark cave. No one walking by even notices that there's stores there. A few years ago, they put up sideways-facing signs to make the stores more noticeable, but they look like ass. Here's another feature of the building that changes for the worse when it rains. Due to its cave-like qualities, the street-level becomes inundated with bums during the slightest precipitation.

Cave of darkness on a perfectly sunny day.

                       What a shitty building. I understand why someone would not want to admit that this pile of buttfruit is their creation. So who was it? You? You? or YOUUUU?!?!!