Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Parkway Press

Cafe Cret
Perhaps it took the better part of a century, but Philadelphia's own Champs-Élysées - The Benjamin Franklin Parkway - has seen quite a bit of press in the past few years. From the Museum of Art expanding into the Perelman Building to the recent Barnes Museum discussions, Cafe Cret now sits on the Parkway near Love Park while new landscaping will soon be surrounding the Barnes Museum, once the site of the juvenille detention center and a small Hooverville. Although the Calder family hijacked his outdoor work, hope still remains that the outdoor installation space could provide a canvas for local artists and more lush park space.

Parkway 22
The Residences at Rodin
Two proposals still linger on the Parkway: Parkway 22 at 22nd and the Parkway, and The Residences at Rodin. The Residences at Rodin gives off a stately, French flair with its curved roof and scaled appearance while the adjacent Parkway 22 offers more to the modern American skyline. As with much of Philadelphia, this juxtaposition offers an uncomfortable beauty. While city planners have spent the last century attempting to make the Ben Franklin Parkway into a broad French Avenue, it is in fact Philadelphia's broad avenue. Why should the surrounding architecture attemp to represent any other city but our own? Even Park Towne Place with its suburbanized footprint and 1950's minimalism offers a uniquely American comfortability visible from the fartherest end of the Parkway.

Park Towne Place
Reproducing the Champs-Élysées in Philadelphia would no doubt be beautiful, but it would be just that, a reproduction. Reproductions are better left to Disney World and Southern California. Philadelphia has enough of its own unique heritage and history. Our Ben Franklin Parkway is surrounded by cultured neighboods and its own, uniquely American, architectural antiquety. Rather than force new development into a cohesive, master plan, we should do what makes America the rich architectural melting pot that it is and allow developers to contuinue developing this architectural quilt that surrounds the Ben Frankin Parkway.

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