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"The most incredible building of the 20th century"--the washed out WWII bunker at Cape May Point. This adds to the "most modern building of the 20th century"--the Palais des Congrès.
After the death of Izenour came the Vietnamese Nun attacked while on her way to Mass at St. Helena's, Olney.

A Museum of Someone's Shopping
"Venturi Shops" 100 years ago

Philadelphia Museum of Art

2001.09.07 09:44
Ambrose buildings, even today
I was not aware of the Ambrose strategic church building program at Milan. Thanks for letting me know about it.
There are three (rather large) Catholic parishes in the Philadelphia neighborhood of Olney, St. Ambrose, St. Helena and The Incarnation of Our Lord. They are all just over 75 years old now, and all within a section of Philadelphia where the demographics is now changing rapidly into incredibly dense multi-culturalism. I've lived here over 43 years now, so I well know the local history. Only recently (Spring 1999) did I learn of the connection between Helena and Ambrose (i.e., Ambrose's late reporting of Helena's finding of the Holy Cross). I began to wonder who it was that actually picks the patronage/names of new parishes when they are instituted, because I am curious if having St. Ambrose next to St. Helena is just an accident. I have yet to pursue this research largely because I don't think I'd actually find an answer, at least not an answer that states specifically whether or not this particular coincidence was intentional. Later in 1999, I learned of Athanasius and his connection to Constantine, and then I learned of Athanasius' influential theological text on the Incarnation.
I'm relating all this because I very unexpectedly found myself living in a otherwise undistinguished place, yet full of huge, and quite specific, late antiquity references. References, moreover, that no doubt no one else around here has any idea of, nor, probably, would care about even if they were informed. I guess what I'm trying to say is that as remote as late antiquity is, it's still very much there, and sometimes right in front of your face and you still may not recognize it.
You may remember that I wrote about a nun that was recently attacked while going to Mass at St. Helena's. Well, that same week there was another nun attack news story that came out of Olney. A nun from Incarnation parish was attacked by a pit-bull dog. Not that these examples are exactly 'persecution', but they do give one a real sense of the kinds of stuff that went on almost exactly 1700 years ago.
pss (2010.08.03)
In late October 2007 I became aware of the fact that the parish west of St. Helena's (in a neighborhood of northern Philadelphia that I was never familiar with) is named for St. Athanasius.

The Wagner Free Institute of Science     1859
Baptist Temple     1889
Temple University
North Philadelphia

2001.09.21 16:09
Re: travels in hyper-reality
Theming comes in many, many varieties, of which the sanitized version is only a subset of general theming. Theming, like theater, however, is a subset of reenactment.
In the United States of America we celebrate Thanksgiving Day the last Thursday of November. Virtually every family in the USA has a turkey dinner with all the trimmings on that day. This dinner is a reenactment of a supposed dinner the Pilgrims and the Indians shared at one of the first harvests of the new settlers in America. Is the modern day Thanksgiving Dinner in the USA an authentic reenactment? It's probably more an artificial reenactment, yet, nonetheless, it is now also as authentically 'American' as any dinner can get.
At this point, I'm seriously wondering whether the specialness of reenactment is that it combines both the authentic and the artificial. For example, authentic Chinatowns (like the one in Philadelphia) are full of artificial, albeit unsanitized, theming. Yet for the generations of Chinese citizens living there, it is their reenactment of 'home'.

North Broad Street
Masonic Temple     1873
PhiladelphiaLife Insurance Company     1962
Center City
North Philadelphia
Temple University

Gatehouses, Philadelphia Zoological Gardens 1876
Antelope House, Philadelphia Zoological Gardens 1877
Widener Memorial Tree House Children's Zoo 1984a
The Solitude 1785
West Foyer, Philadelphia Museum of Art 1987
Art Sales and Rental Gallery, Philadelphia Museum of Art 1991
Philadelphia Museum of Art

Christopher Columbus Monument     1992
Franklin Court     1976a
Welcome Park     1983
New Jersey State Aquarium Entrance Building and Camden Children's Garden     2000a
Delaware River Port Authority Headquarters     1996

2001.10.20 13:44
Re: Beauty parlor
Beauty (parlor) is in the eye of the beholder.
There is a boot-leg beauty parlor just two doors down from me. From what I can gather this is the beauty parlor of choice for Northeast Philadelphia's turn-of-the-millennium Portuguese immigrant population. (Between the mid 1980s and the mid 1990s there were over a dozen Portuguese families living on my block, and now they've almost all moved on.) When the proprietress and her family first moved here in 1992, I noticed lots of work was being done in their basement, but I only guessed they were making some kind of den or family room down there. About a year later I was eating lunch in my kitchen, and I heard someone walk in my back door downstairs. I got up to look down the steps, and there was this older [Portuguese] woman very surprised to see me. Then she simply asked, "Fixa da hair?" That's when it was all revealed to me, so I escorted the woman down to my second neighbor's back door, and said, "Here, fixa da hair."

2001.10.20 15:47
went traveling to hyper-reality
Earlier today I took lots of pictures of architecture in and near Philadelphia by Venturi Scott Brown & Associates. VSBA's latest (1996-2000) local project is actually in Camden, New Jersey, the Camden Children's Garden, which is also the entrance to the New Jersey State Aquarium. The best shot I took there was from the top floor of the parking structure across from the entrance--the Aquarium Entrance and Children's Garden and Philadelphia's downtown skyline across the Delaware River.
Yesterday I went to the Philadelphia Zoo, specifically to take pictures of the 'Treehouse' which is also a VSBA project from 1980-84. This is a children's play (like animals) environment fitted within the old antelope house, an original zoo building by George Wattson Hewitt, 1876.

University of Pennsylvania Library     1890
Rudi Gernreich: Fashion Will Go Out of Fashion Installation     2001a
Institute of Science Information     1979a
Perelman Quadrangle     2000
Williams Hall Alteration     2000
Roy and Diana Vagelos Laboratories     1997
Schuykill Expressway/Roosevelt Boulevard

Tredyffrin Public Library     1976b
Erdman Hall     1965

2001.11.10 20:51
Re: Louis Kahn's son
What really bothers me though is the notion that Kahn's architecture being inspired by his youthful surroundings is now seen as some new insight. The truth of the matter is that North Philadelphia was jam packed with an incredible collection of 19th century industrial architecture. Sadly, a lot of it is now gone, and virtually none of it was ever appreciated. For me, it was riding the old Reading train line into town through North Philadelphia that provided one of Philadelphia's best architectural tours. [This train route is now called the R8, and it still runs regularly, but many of the old factories are now gone.] I guess what I'm trying to say is that apparently there were and still are great buildings in North Philadelphia (akin to Exeter Library, no less), but, because they are not designed by someone famous, they are not noticed. Why isn't this architectural greatness recognized all along? Is it perhaps architectural education itself that somehow makes us less observant? Or has it always been that nothing is worth it until some article or book says it is?

Morphosis Exhibit

2001.12.10 13:12
land of truths?
...the recent phrase "and not a oak tree to be seen, less, land of oak trees" has resonated in my mind since reading it. Albeit sad, its truth can hardly be disputed. It really does make one think about what's real and what isn't. For example, does Philadelphia ever truly live up to it's name which means brotherly love? Or does New York have much to do with Old York (which I assume is York, England)?
Quite by accident (on Friday) I found a new book entitled The Geometry of Love by Margaret Visser. This book is all about the church St. Agnes Outside the Walls, Rome. Visser essentially describes every aspect of the church, and in so doing delivers an amazing portrait of a single place and all its (space/time) meaning.
In yesterday's NYTIMES, the article about Philadelphia's new concert hall begins with describing Philadelphia as "a city that time often seems to have forgotten." Maybe I should start referring to myself as Steve, from Tempobliviopolis.

Tacony Creek Park

nimiety of ideas
Looked at Vittorio De Feo again; saw where inspiration for the House in Laguna stairs came from; is the current architectural revival of the '50s and the '60s going to be followed by a digital redux of the '70s?
Begin an interpretive overlay of Kahn's Center City Philadelphia plans upon Quondam's Philadelphia model; this could produce a next wave of Koolhaas architecture, or will it also be a new wave of Piranesi / Kahn / Lauf.

Deshler-Morris House     1773
P.S.F.S Logan Branch     1926


Hatfield House     1835
Church of the Gesù     1888
Keystone National Bank Building     1890
Girard Avenue
District Health Center #1     1959
Calcutta House     1996
North Philadelphia

1. 88 houses of ill-repute; start with the Porticus Neronianae (circle/square); playful appositions.
12. ...refilling North Philadelphia with housing... ...stop the further suburbanization of North Philadelphia. ...introducing non-repetitive plot sizes and shapes, and an initial layer of "infrastructural ruins"--built elements that are meant to last for centuries, and that will accommodate any variety of "add-on" architecture.

History of Olney     c0219

2002.02.19 19:13
old news from Olney
I guess what really makes me so happy today is that I now know (for sure) that the place I often played as a child was once, and probably for many centuries, a Delaware or Lenepe campsite.

Philadelphia Museum of Art
Laurel Hill West

Re: what a blast   1994

Philadelphia Museum of Art

Tacony Creek Park/Whitaker Mills Barn

Independence Hall     1748
Kelly Drive/Hunting Park Avenue/Roosevelt Boulevard

2002.04.11 17:27
Re: being/critical
Went down to Independence National Park this afternoon. Wanted to take pictures of the 1976 Liberty Bell pavilion (Mitchell/Giurgola Architects) before it becomes completely quondam when the Bell is moved to its forthcoming new home in Spring 2003. With all the news about the first Executive Mansion (with slave quarters) of the USA, you would think that the plans to demolish the present Liberty Bell pavilion would be rethought (as I mentioned before).
Anyway, all the historic shrines are now barricaded and guarded (since 9-11), so I took pictures of this latest layer of American shrine history as well.
Palimpsest is not exactly apposition because an erasure occurs before something new is applied. Apposition occurs within palimpsest when traces of the erasure begin to be seen again.



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