The Philadelphia School, deterritorialized


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Mitchell/Giurgola Associates

Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company

2005.03.13 10:25
public/private culture
John asks:
Wasn't the vile practice of saving facades of historic structures originated in Philadelphia, Steve, the fountainhead of American preservation ever eager to get in bed with real estate vultures?
Steve replies:
Philadelphia doesn't originate anything. It just reenacts things.
For example, when Mitchell/Giurgola Associates saved the Egyptian Revival (or should that be Egyptian Reenactment) facade at the new Penn Mutual Tower (1975), I saw this design solution as a reenactment of the James Stirling with Leon Krier Derby Civic Center competition design (1970) where the facade of an historic Assembly Hall at the site was reused as the facing of a band shelter.
I wonder if the reconstruction of Munich, Germany after the bombing of World War II can also be seen as "the vile practice of saving facades?"
Giurgola reenacts Stirling in at least two other designs: the Adult Learning Research Laboratory (1972) at the American College of Life Underwriters reenacts the Florey Building for Queen's College (1966-71), and the Mission Park Residential Houses (1972) at Williams College reenacts the Student Residences for St. Andrews University (1964-68).
Giurgola didn't know what to do, however, after Stirling saved a crumbling historic facade within the Museum for Nordrhein Westfalen (1975) competition design.

2005.03.15 12:15
Re: facadism
I can understand the ire at what these 'false' facades represent, as well. Nonetheless, the images (for me at least) evoke memories of the free standing, screen facades that Mitchell/Giurgola Architects incorporated into a fair numbers of their designs mostly during the 1970s... I think the immediate precedent for this practice was Kahn's notion of "wrapping ruins around buildings," which (I think) was said in regard to the Library at Exeter (1965-72), but it may have been said in reference to the Meeting House at Salk (1961-62, unexecuted) or even the US Consulate, Luanda, Angola (1959-62, unexecuted).

1. exhibit of Giurgola free standing facades--Columbia HS, PennMutual, Tredeffrin Library, Columbia Univ., Princeton (replaced by VSBA), Australia, and the United Way--as "proto" (except for Kahn "wrapping ruins around buildings @ Exeter).
3. do a full reenactment trail before and after Kahn's Media convent. Luckily, my thesis comes before Gehry's Winton Guest House. ...including the precedents I presented at thesis.



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