GroJLart at Philaphilia is quickly becoming my favorite "architectural nonsense" blogger in Philadelphia. His latest rant about the dead Bridgeman's View proposal for the waterfront got me reminiscing about a time long ago when we were still building houses we couldn't afford, buying gas guzzling SUVs we didn't need, and openly challenging the country's 1% to transform city skylines around the globe. The year was 2007, a distant memory filled with shopping sprees, cosmopolitans at the latest Steven Starr incarnations, and nights full of unapologetic laughter.
Oh, how I miss the laughter.
Perhaps that's what's so refreshing about GroJLart. Sure, his snarky rants probably trigger your kid's parental controls, but his dark humor applauds our wealthy developers for their inspired visions while berating them when they sell out. No nonsense, no politics, and when a building is just plain ugly, he says it's just plain ugly.
In the enlightened era before smart phones and a pantheon of reality television dedicated to the children spawned by the Jersey Shore, Bridgeman's View went beyond the conventional skyscraper and attempted to maximize what could be done with a glass curtain. In fact, it's unique coiled design might have been better suited to the shores of Dubai than the banks of the Delaware.
Bridgeman's View was more than another skyscraper. Had it been proposed for West Market Street we might be looking at it right now. But Bridgeman's View was an concept and offered a vision beyond occupying another vacant lot.
While it would have housed million dollar condos, it also sought to anchor a new neighborhood. Surrounded by projects that undoubtedly relied on the confidence of Bridgeman's View to turn a forlorn stretch of Delaware Avenue into its own urban core, it was surrounded by shopping, restaurants, bars, and may have encouraged SugarHouse to be more than an uninspired slot barn.
In a way, the opposing community organizations were correct in their assumptions that Bridgeman's View wasn't concerned with their neighborhoods. It wasn't designed to complement Northern Liberties, but to liberate it from itself. Developers may have underestimated our community organization's relentless reaction to change. In an area arguably even assigned to any neighborhood, developers were forced to rationalize a skyscraper that rationally didn't belong.
In a city full of artists and creativity, we limit the right to be a visionary to those who can't afford it. While many in the surrounding communities might like to claim defeat over Bridgeman's View, the economy was its most vocal opposition. Had the contingent development surrounding the tower been afforded the ability to play out, Bridgeman's View might be pointing its middle finger at the neighbors that tried to squash it.
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