Pearl Properties proposed converting The Granary at 20th and Callowhill into a mixed use high rise by adding twelve stories of modern apartments to the top of the silos. While the plan was ultimately denied, and subtly criticized by Inga Saffron, it could open a debate over how and why to preserve historically significant buildings that no longer serve a practical purpose because of elements that serve its historical significance.
The Granary was built by the Reading Company in 1925, and is historically significant because it represents an era that once dominated this neighborhood, an era represented solely by The Granary.
But is it architecturally significant? One can hardly argue the right angles to be design. In fact there really are no artistic elements to this building. It is purpose-built practicality throughout. However, the building's aesthetics are so staunchly preserved that in order to reuse this building, Granary Associates occupies a bevy of windowless floors in order to maintain the gray, concrete facade.
That's quite a sacrifice, to deny architects a view of their city to save a barren wall. Would it really be a preservative sin to allow the few large windows to be replicated on each floor? As something architecturally significant, I can understand this tedious preservation, but as an historical representation of a bygone era, the history lies in its presence and location, not in the detail, or lack thereof.
This building preserves an era that's ending made it impractical. As it stands the Granary stares over our Champs-Élysées, a white elephant amongst meticulously designed museums and parks, but an artistically designed addition could allow it to continue to serve as an historical reminder of a bygone era while adding architectural significance to the location.