Thursday, August 27, 2009

Can We Get a Pulse?

A quick look at some great contributions to the Philadelphia skyline that may or may not make it.

Richard Meier's Mandeville Place at 2401 Walnut Street is dead in the water following the real estate crash. Out of all the residential developments proposed, this arguably would have been the most glowing addition to Philadelphia's architectural portfolio.

Agoos/Lovera Architects' Bridgeman's View would have added height adjacent to a neighborhood that a Northern Liberties NIMBY may not have wanted, but got stuck with it anyway in the form of five lesser towers with Waterfront Square. This could have been the catalyst to create a new city on the Delaware but died off with the real estate crash, leaving the north end of Penn's Landing with a cluster of five isolated high rises and the coming of Sugarhouse Casino.

H2L2's Stamper Square, a tasteful and scaled addition to Society Hill, replacing the hole in the ground formerly occupied by the NewCity shopping mall, was staved off by bitter residents long enough for it to be completely killed by the bubble burst, leaving residents with...a hole in the ground.

The Boyd Theater restoration and ARCWheeler's addition of a Kimpton Hotel isn't quite dead...yet...but hasn't seemed to evolve beyond this sketch.

The parking garage at Brandywine Realty Trust's Cira Center South is moving along. According to Penn, this project is going forward. Cira Centre South would significantly change our skyline shifting our eyes upward west of the Schuylkill and creating what I would like to name Crystal City had it not already been taken by an underwhelming suburb of Washington, DC.

A name like Intercontinental might be a slim possibility during this particular financial situation. One can still hope this Brennan Beer Gorman design someday rises above the Vine Street Expressway.

The same could be said for Cope Linder's Waldorf Astoria at 15th and Chestnut, rivaling the neighboring Residences at the Ritz in height, style, and opulance.

Winka Dubbeldam's obscurely fascinating Unknot Tower (GMH Hotels) at 12th and Chestnut would make a truley unique and risky addition to Philadelphia, unmatched since the days when our archiscape was Frank Furness's playground.

Of course, Philadelphia's attempt to play with the big boys, rising above anything currently standing in Manhattan and rivaling Chicago's biggest, Kohn Peterson Fox's American Commerce Center is still the dream of many. Battled by biddies in neighboring residences, the ACC has weathered much of its criticism by simply being tall. Like many of our tallest, it's not necessarily great architecture but from the ground, simetimes height is all a building needs to inspire awe.

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