Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Post Brothers Apartments

While a handful of protesters continue to picket the rehabilitation of the infamous "Graffiti Building" at 12th and Wood, Post Brothers has unveiled a sign of their own.

Today, a giant banner hung from one of the top floors of the long neglected warehouse read "Post Brothers Apartments," signifying development is moving full steam ahead unphased by Philadelphia's Union Muscle.

For months, a rotating collection of Colorform laden signage spouted accusations that Post Brothers were "destroying community standards" to commuters along 12th Street.

I'd personally like to say thank you Post Brothers for investing in MY community's standards.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

City says Divine Lorraine will not be demolished

A "Repair or Demolish" notification posted by L&I delivered a second punch to preservationists following a fire at the Divine Lorraine, abandoned by investors.

Fear not. Deputy Mayor Alan Greenberger stated that the notification was a necessary measure allowing the city to enter the building and intervene.

A bill for all repairs made by the city will be sent to the building's owners, Michael Treacy, Jr. and a Dutch group, on top of the $700,000 in back taxes they currently owe.

Meanwhile the city is working with the New York bank that holds the mortgage to find a new owner ready and willing to develop the property.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Art and Craftsmanship

It's hard to say how many well known artists, if any, are capable of the level of craftsmanship carried out by the Masters, not to mention the tradesmen that worked to adorn our historic architecture.

Art wasn't always open to anyone with an idea or a statement, and while the wealthy have and still define art, the practice and its subsequent respect wasn't limited to "the starving artist."

What happened?

Just a century ago we were graced with a stock or artists and architects so talented that the works of Willis Hale and Philadelphia City Hall were perceived eyesores.

But today we praise glass towers for their lack of presence, automotive design that continues to look like a 1989 Ford Taurus, and visual art that refuses to offer a vision beyond its explanation.

Has our culture gotten so smart that we no longer need something interesting to look at, or have we intellectualized the design right out of design?

Whether a way of expressing spiritual enlightenment or national pride, or simply painting us a fox hunting scene, the one thing art historically required of its artists was skill.

The art community's obsession with its artists' messages has grown so strong that it overshadows the art itself.

Art should attract the eye, followed by an understanding of its inspiration. Instead we look for the story first and neglect to realize that we're analyzing a blank canvas.

If many of our modern day artists are masters of anything, it's marketing. The "trained" eyes of the art experts are so blinded by their own wealth that they'd never suspect their beloved artists of being some of the Free World's greatest capitalists.

Art or Copyright Infringement?

Apologizing for an artist's impoverished upbringing, the Philadelphia Museum of Art displays photographs of nothing in the same building that Renaissance masterpieces call home.

Artists offer our elite art community an insight into their humble beginnings and then capitalize on their guilt, exploiting their audiences as much as their subjects, feeding off the same morbid fascination with the ill, disfigured, and poor that keeps TLC on the air.

Talentless snobs may define this as art to help them sleep at night, but they share an obsession for the plight of the downtrodden with the rest of society.

Sadly the art community has become so tainted with an affinity for crap that the very sight of anything painted or sculpted displaying an ounce of craftsmanship or skill is labeled kitsch.

Have we exhausted new ideas? Are we in a creative rut? Or has an elite society fostered an element where hacks aren't subject to the same standards as the schooled and talented?

As much as we love history, critics will continue to reserve their most harsh critiques for historic recreations demanding artistic interpretations like Venturi's Benjamin Franklin house in lieu of The American Philosophical Society.

The gracefully adorned and architecturally respectful Mormon Temple will be dubbed a monumental shrine to a bygone era while we applaud a new Mac store's glass facade.

And paintings of horses that look like horses will be stored in the basement so the Philadelphia Museum of Art can exhibit another collection of snapshots of your next door neighbor's Walmart grill.

The PMA could find its modern art on Etsy and no one would know the difference.

How Low Can You Go?

The building frenzy in Manhattan isn't slowing down anytime soon. While Callowhill residents use the success of the High Line to justify their own park in the sky, New Yorkers are citing their own success to dig deeper. Literally.

It's being called the LowLine, and designers Dan Barasch and James Ramsey have secured an unprecedented $125,000 in donations.

Using modern technology to redirect sunlight they envision a subterranean park occupying an abandoned subway line, 60,000 square feet in all.

It sounds pretty spectacular, and if Manhattan was the vertical city of moving sidewalks and mile high gardens Hugh Ferriss once predicted, underground parks might sound less like science fiction and more like necessity.

But as crowded as New York is, it is just another big city. It has some of the most beautiful parks in the world, one of the biggest system of urban parks in the country, and dozens of neighborhoods lit by the sun that the streets of Bladerunner and The Fifth Element lacked.

Kudos on an exciting concept but that's what it is. If New York is blessed with enough wealthy eccentrics and a tax surplus large enough to ignore schools and services, more power to them. But most urbanites don't even like shopping indoors, and the LowLine is little more than a mall's concourse without stores. At best it's a nice quasi outdoor reprieve for joggers on a rainy day.