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2000.08.09 14:28
Koolhaas' Seattle Library
As to the Koolhaas phenomenon, you may be a bit extreme in your assessment (even though "extreme-ism" is perhaps one way to explain Koolhaas). I know him and his buildings only through books (excluding seeing an OMA building in Berlin that Koolhaas may not have had anything to do with). I can identify with the "vagueness," but it is exactly that vagueness that gets him all the attention. Haven't you noticed that by and large people don't like direct answers when it comes to design solutions? (I realize I'm potentially going out on a limb with that line of thinking.)
Interestingly enough, I have met with two of Koolhaas's former partners, Elias Zengalis and Eleni Gigantes. From what I can gather, there is an unrelenting drive to be MODERN MODERN MODERN among the present European "stars". Ironically, I believe that Americans (of the USA primarily) are extremely MODERN, and most of the time they don't even think about it. Today's American cities are in a constant battle with their own MODERNITY, which I'm sure you know all too well. American cities are extremely assimilating (absorbing) and at the same time extremely metabolic (equally creative and destructive).

6904 Rising Sun Avenue

Working Title Museum 002     2324

Working Title Museum 003     2325

Glen Foerd     1903

Working Title Museum 004     2326

2. mesh surface "sculptures" up and down the Parkway.
3. mesh surfaces "bonded" via "walls", "towers", and "floors", etc., e.g., Hejduk architecture ideas; new typologies.
4. Quondam model collection Interrotta.
5. an orbital Ichnographia Campi Martii?

Moravian Pottery and Tile Works     1910
Fonthill     1912

Manayunk to Bryn Mawr

Eastern State Penitentiary
Philadelphia Museum of Art/Duchamp

German-Hungarian Club
St. Michael's Catholic Church     1847
Options Lighting Company
St. John's Episcopal Church     1815
Vox Populi

context (Quondam thinking?)
Whenever I read about architecture and context I can't help but automatically recall my architectural education at Temple University, Philadelphia, 1975-81. Temple's architecture program was then in its infancy (begun 1973), and the faculty were largely either/and/or students of Louis Kahn, former employees of Louis Kahn, current or former employees of Romaldo Giurgola (Mitchell/Giurgola Architects), or employees at Venturi and Rauch Architects. Besides that 'august' lineage, what impressed my design thinking most was the issue of designing with respect to context, indeed I'd say that that notion was the touchstone of my entire formal architectural education. [I also have a strong independent streak when it comes to continually self educating myself architecturally, and my subscribing to Oppositions throughout the late 1970s through the early 1980s--I have all 26 issues except nos. 1 and 3--is just one example of that. Oppositions was never required reading at Temple U. while I was there.]
I now want to make a bold statement regarding (the evolution of?) contextualism and architecture:
What is probably the best example of Philadelphia architecture from the 1990s happens to not be in Philadelphia at all, rather it is in London, namely the Sainsbury Wing addition to the National Gallery by Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates, Philadelphia.
I have never been to London, but I know the Sainsbury Wing fairly well via publications, plus, and here's the beginning of my point, I almost viscerally understand all the 'contextual' design idioms and eccentricities because they are, and the building as a 'whole' is, a consummate example of (questionably labeled post-modern) Philadelphian contextual architectural design thinking. I'm not suggesting that Philadelphia has some sort of propriety when it come to designing architecture contextually in the late 20th century, rather that there is a uniqueness to Philadelphia's 'brand' of contexturalism (indeed retrospectively related to Rowe's thinking, but clearly distinct nonetheless mostly because of Giurgola and Venturi who both taught at the University of Pennsylvania at the same time that Kahn taught there). What's wonderful about the Sainsbury Wing is that as a program and site it boiled down to being almost entirely about designing in context, and, with Venturi and Scott Brown as the competition winners, they were given the opportunity to do, in a sense, a 'hyper' contextual building, i.e. dealing with both London (and even royal) contexts as well as Philadelphia's theoretical architectural 'contexts'.
I'm going to be even more bold by suggesting that the Sainsbury Wing is not so much 'post-modern' design, rather very good 'post-imperial' design. Isn't the UK still more specifically operating within a post-imperial milieu (as a childhood stamp collector of the 1960s I'm very aware of exactly how and when the British Empire ended) and isn't Philadelphia the foremost post-imperial city when it comes to the British Empire--site of the Declaration of Independence and all that? I actually think the world of architecture is extremely fortunate to have an iconic post-imperial building in a post-imperial capital transplanted there by architects from the Empire's proto post-imperial city.
[Earlier, when the discussions here centered on evolution versus invention of style, I wanted to introduce the notion of Venturi's role vis--vis POMO, specifically the publication of Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture, which is based almost entirely on the early 1960s architectural theory course that Venturi taught at the University of Pennsylvania (in Philadelphia, founded by Benjamin Franklin). Essentially, I wanted to raise the question as to what influence the Philadelphia 'context' had on 'Post-Modern Architecture'. If you asked me, I'd say the influence was indeed seminal, and Venturi's Mother's House (Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, a 15 minute ride from where I'm presently sitting as I write this) had a great deal to do with the earliest manifestation (dare I say invention?) of what has come to be labeled Post Modern Architecture.]
I'm going to table the issue of what exactly Philadelphia contextualism is in specific terms of style, and instead ask all you that can readily visit the Sainsbury Wing to go there next time with the thought that you are going to a truly Philadelphian building because the style you'll see there is, like I said, an example of Philadelphia architecture at its best. If you don't know Philadelphia itself, and/or are not too familiar with Philadelphia's indigenous architecture, I'd suggest concurrently looking at (any book on) the architecture of Frank Furness (1839-1912), the sort of ur-architect of Philadelphia uniqueness and perhaps Venturi's strongest stylistic influence.
Like Venturi and (almost) Kahn, I am a Philadelphia native (although I'm also the only member of my immediate family born in America), and I've sort of made Philadelphia context an integral part of my life, e.g., I've been living in the same Philadelphia house for almost 43 years, all but the first 20 months of my life). As much as Philadelphia is often called the cradle of democracy, a kind of New World Athens, at base (i.e., literally infrastructurally) Philadelphia is a Roman colonial camp reenactment (and you might even put camp in quotes, a la Learning from Las Vegas via Philadelphians). Philadelphia's original plan is a Roman grid complete with a real cardo and a real decumanus, and the plan is still very much intact today. Indeed, Broad Street, the north-south axis is the longest straight street (in an urban context) in the world, an ultimate cardo, primary axis if there ever is one (and Stauffer Hall, the site of Temple University's architecture program from 1973-1980 was right on Broad Street). I don't have to tell all of you how much I look to/at Rome, but I should mention that the main reason I started redrawing and studying Piranesi's Campo Marzio (and all the subsequent ancient Roman studying being done like on St. Helena) is because I was inspired by the fact that Louis I. Kahn, throughout his mature years, had a copy of Piranesi's Campo Marzio plan hanging on the wall over his desk at his office (on Walnut St. in downtown Philadelphia, and no I'm not suggesting that Kahn was some kind of 'wall nut'). After Learning from Las Vegas, Venturi next published a group of essays under the title A View from the Campidoglio, and just a few years ago it dawned on me that when one is actually standing at the Campidoglio in Rome, the view being taken in is literally Rome's Campo Marzio. I'm going to make one final bold statement here, and that is to ask you to now trust me when I say that I continue to see what some of Philadelphia's best architects looked at.

Tacony Creek Park
Pennypack Park Environmental Center
Pennypack Park Restroom Facility

Sears & Roebuck Merchandise Distribution Center
Powerhouse     1920
Firehouse     1922

Ryerss Mansion Museum     1859 1920




2001.03.09 10:48
North Penn Visiting Nurses Association     1963

QA 001
...a Duchamp exhibit relating the Duchamp gallery to the classical pediment sculpture group at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

2001.03.10 10:48
Re: George Washington's Presidential...
I recently read four chapters on the 'preservation' of 'historic' Philadelphia (temporary capital of the United States 1790-1800) in L. Mumford's Highway and the City. I actually found out about these texts from John Young vis--vis 'talk' about reenactment and "re" words. It seems that Mumford was lecturing at the University of Pennsylvania in the late 1940s and that was when the historic districts around Independence Hall (actually the Pennsylvania State House) were being newly planned and 'preserved'. I was surprised at how unprecedented American historic preservation was at that time, and then how the preservation actions taken in Philadelphia in turn set America's historic preservation precedents and standards. Growing up in Philadelphia in the 1960s and going to architecture school here in the 1970s (the Bicentennial and all that, like Legionnaire's Disease) made one hyper aware of historic preservation; I didn't think then at how 'new' it all was.
Another interesting factor I found out is that half of Philadelphia's historic district is run by the Federal government and half is run by the State of Pennsylvania--I'm pretty sure Independence Hall is still owned by Pennsylvania, and the ruins of the Morris House are within the part run by Pennsylvania as well.
Like Franklin Court (a few blocks away) designed by Venturi and Rauch in the early 1970s, the Robert Morris House is just another example of Philadelphia's great collection of premiere virtual houses.
You'd think I'd seen it all here to many times already, but the truth is that with each recent visit to Philadelphia's Historic National Park (the area run by the Federal government) I become more impressed by it each time I'm there. Maybe it's because I'm getting older myself and like to see things that endure time, but I also think it's because a nice job was done in the first place. Independence Mall (the area run by Pennsylvania) was oddly dear to me as well, even though most didn't like it because it really was lifeless, thus it is now being redone. Maybe the best plan for the Mall now is for it to be redone every twenty years or so--American [metabolic] Dreaming at its best?

Philadelphia Museum of Art
Christopher Columbus Monument

S.S. United States     1952
Ascension of Our Lord Church     1927

3. The museum at Ryerss mansion is uncannily reenacted by "Venturi Shops"-- and the notion of shopping (and tourism) as they metamorphose into museum[piece]s.

Philadelphia Museum of Art
Rodin Museum
Ryerss Mansion Museum


Philadelphia Museum of Art

one very Philadelphian daze    

Bastille Day Celebration    

2001.07.17 14:01
Re: Saturday    
2001.07.17 17:41
Re: Saturday    
2001.07.17 19:21
Re: Saturday    

Philadelphia Museum of Art

2001.07.25 12:18
Piranesi, Duchamp and Mustard

2001.07.26 11:13
Re: Philadelphia's Fairmount Park

1. The great stair hall of the Philadelphia Museum of Art as the New World Neo-Sistine Chapel because of the pagan Diana, the Christian life of Constantine, and the modern Calder Ghost--so there really was a ghost at the ghost of Crispus party.

a 1980s CAD exhibit
...have yet to write about my idea for a drawing exhibit at Quondam of 1980s CAD drawings. A great deal of the drawings would be from the V-80 collection, but there are other drawings as well, such as the Health Center 6 plots (if the still exist), emphasis on the Philadelphia model (exhibit and TV spotlight), the work for Dan Kopple (30th Street Development), early Dominican Motherhouse model making.
Beyond my work on Intergraph, comes the early Arris databases--these images will come directly from the screen.
...don't have any actual databases from the '80s except the libraries, patterns, some 30th St. (maybe). The photographs are mostly of the City Hall competition, and maybe some of the brochure stuff.


2001.08.15 19:50
X-games architecture
With regard to skateboarders appropriating architectural space, it is interesting that this week there are the X-GAMES here in Philadelphia, and from what I can gather via TV news, all kinds of places in Philadelphia are being appropriated as venues for varied 'extreme' sport events.
JFK Plaza, designed by Vincent Kling sometime in the 1960s, is perhaps Philadelphia's best modern 'town square' right across from City Hall. Since the late 1980s this 'park' (today it is commonly referred to as "Love Park" because of a prominently placed Robert Indiana LOVE sculpture) has been the domain of many skateboarders, but not always a welcome use of the space. I was actually quite surprised the other night when I saw LOVE PARK on TV being used as the skateboard competition venue for the X-Games, e.g., skateboarders zipping along the quite fine 1960s chrome railings in the park, and flying off of the parks nice granite retaining walls.


2001.08.18 15:32
Happy Saint Helena Day
Then I took R. to Ryerss Mansion and Museum in Burholme Park. I've 'rediscovered' this place last December. It's one of those places you pass all the time, but never bother to look inside of. It's my new favorite place. I describe it as "'Venturi Shops' 100 years ago" because the VSBA 1995 exhibit Venturi Shops unwittingly reenacts exactly what Ryerss Mansion and Museum is, namely, an exhibition of things bought during excursions of India and the Far East (albeit 100 years ago). Because Ryerss is actually a museum of someone's shopping, there is an interesting Koolhaasian reenactment manifested here as well. Additionally, I tell R. my new typological interest is houses that morph into museums, of which Ryerss Mansion is a prime example of as well.



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