Thursday, August 30, 2012

Butt-Fugly Public Art of the Week-- August 30th

Wilt Chamberlain by Omni Amrany

Southeast Corner of the Wells Fargo Center

Pic from
                      Ok, I get what they were trying to do here but this just looks ridiculous. A statue is a statue, for fuck's sake. Its supposed to be still. If they wanted it to be in motion so badly, they should have made it like those animatronic historical figures.
                      Omni Armany, the dude that designed this sculpture, has also created similar pieces honoring other sports figures. Some others have the same "being splashed by a bucket of diarrhea" look to them. The one thing I like about this is how there are two figures of the same person. I guess that's kinda cool... the casual crouching Wilt Chamberlain shape-shifts Odo-style into 76ers Wilt kicking some ass.
                     I also don't mind how parts of the sculpture seems like freeze frames of moving body parts-- I just can't get away from the diarrhea of bronze in between. Also, why stop at just two figures? They should have had casual Wilt turn into Conan the Destroyer Wilt and THEN become 76ers Wilt.

"His Numberwang is the size of my leg" -Princess Jehnna
                    This 17-foot Chamberlain-Diarrhea Attack Montage weighs 3,000 lbs and was cast by A.R.T. Enterprises out of Centerville, PA. It cost $300,000, paid for by the Wilt Chamberlain Foundation. The casual Wilt is supposed to depict Wilt in his Overbrook High days. A staff of 30 assembled the Bronze Feces Explosion over a year and a half. It was installed outside the Wells Fargo Center back when it was called the Wachovia Center in 2004.
                  The statue is not the only Wilt-related artwork you can find in the city. A mural depicting Chamberlain stands on the side of 1243 Vine Street. Its right next to a mini-surface parking lot. If and when that lot gets developed, it'll probably be gone. I don't go nuts about losing murals like others do.. they are meant as placeholders and can always be re-painted somewhere else.
                  I think a proper monument to Wilt Chamberlain would be great for Philadelphia. It doesn't necessarily have to be at the Sports Complex-- it could go in Fairmount Park. In 1990, a video simulation of that that would be like was made:


Seems pretty good to me... build it.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Parking Garage of the Week-- August 29th

Central Parking System-- 10th and Walnut

923 Walnut Street, 123 South 10th Street

This crappy Google Earth 3D view is the only way to show this thing in its entirety.
                  Now this is a pitiful pile of shit. A gigantic 50,000+ square foot parking castle that tries to hide behind other buildings but still manages to muck up two different blocks. Around 50 years old, its time to take this motherfucker down.
                 First of all, I hate it when parking garage owners/management companies can't even keep the fucking lights that say "Park Here" lit. This one has gotten worse and worse over the years... only the final "e" in "Here" is lit along with half the little arrow. What a disgrace. Second, this, along with the buildings next to it, are standing in the way of future Jefferson University/Hospital expansion.
                 The site of this garage did have one historical asset. The Racquet Club of Philadelphia's original headquarters once stood in a large row-mansion at this spot. They moved there in 1889 and stuck around until 1906, when the spoiled-ass George Dunton Widener decided that the neighborhood sucked and commissioned Horace Trumbauer to design their current HQ at 16th Street. He went down with the Titanic six years later, so fuck'm.
                The old Racquet Club building was demolished in the early 1930's, becoming a surface parking lot. The building next to it came down later that decade. The two long lots stayed surface parking all the way until 1960, when the land was purchased by the parking garage's current owner for $1. Once the surface lot at 123 and 125 South 10th Street were acquired shortly after that, construction of this parking monster began.

1935. The surface lot on the right is the site of the old Racquet Club. the building in the middle came down shortly after this pic was taken.
1960 view showing the 10th Street side of the surface lot that would become the parking garage. Carver W. Reed still runs out of that same building.
                       50 years later, the garage is still doing the same shit it did when it was built. In 2006, Jefferson created a long-term Master Plan that included the destruction of this parking garage and the buildings next to it in order to create a green space called "Jefferson Square". Other parts of the plan came to fruition (Lubert Plaza), but this part was for farther in the future, and if other local university's master plans from 2006 are any indication, this shit will probably never happen.

2025 view of the site of the garage from that master plan.
                   At this point, this stuff seems highly unrealistic. In the plan, they say that the next step toward this is "site acquisition". Jeff has managed to purchase 3-4 buildings on the 10th Street side of this site, but that's about it. If they still plan to do this, they better get some fucking dough ready. The Carver Reed store has been there since 1956 so I don't think they're going to be so happy about moving (though they've moved plenty since opening in 1860), and the Robert Morris Building is one of only four facilities in the country that prints braille books and magazines.
                  Also, Jefferson Square is supposed to come AFTER the Ambulatory Care Center that they're supposed to build on that gigantic surface parking lot they've been sitting on forever. Oh well... its looks like we're gonna have to get used to this garage because it isn't going anywhere for awhile. Fix the damn lights.       

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

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

Old City 205

205 Race Street

                  This dead-ass proposal isn't even properly dead. It still exists, but not in this form. Old City 205 was just a victim of bad timing. Though fully-approved, this kickass-looking condo set for the 200 block of Race Street was just too damn good in too bad of a time. Too bad this sucker couldn't get out of the ground.
                   Read more at the Philadelphia Citypaper's Naked City Blog!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Mystery Building of the Week-- August 27th

Piece of the A.F. Bornot French Dyer and Scourer

1642 Fairmount Ave.

               This right here looks like it was once a pretty nice-looking building... but definitely not anymore. Sitting at the corner of 17th and Fairmount for a long-ass time, this curvy bird looks like it would pretty fucking cool if was converted to residences with a nice row of retail/restaurants on both sides. Just imagine if those bricked-up windows came alive.
               Old maps label the property as a Steam Dye House, but that doesn't really tell us anything. It looks like it was once connected to the property next to it. That property may be part of the same building, but today they are two separate entities.

Your mom's a Steam Dye Ho.
                  Eventually, I figured out that the dye company was A.F. Bornot, French Dyer and Scourer. Bornot had been operating at that corner in some form or another since the 1830's. The A.F. Bornot company had stores all over the city and had branches in both Wilmington and D.C. The company even had a hotel on 10th Street called the Bornot... I'll go into more detail about that in a future Lost Building of the Week article. It ends up the building at the corner WAS connected to the property next door, but that's not all... the Bornot factory complex took up the entire block of Melon Street behind it.

Low-res pic of the Bornot factory. The Mystery Building is in the lower middle.
                 The section of the old dye works that is the Mystery Building MIGHT HAVE been built in 1906, a year from which I've found some very non-specific construction records. This is a Mystery Building that's a lot less mysterious than previous ones. In any event, the architect is completely unknown.
                 This building was purchased in 2002 for $700,000 by the non-profit Spring Garden Community Development Corporation from a grant they received in November, 1999. They bought up a shitload of properties from this and other grants... some have been redeveloped, others have been sitting vacant. There's more to this story, but I'll have to save the details for a future Empty Lot of the Week article.
                 Needless to say, they haven't done shit with building, aside from recently replacing a few of those crappy windows. Anyone know who the architect was or what, if any, plans exist for the rehab or sale of this building?