What can I say? They're fun houses on a corner that needed a flea dip. And if those plastic panels don't start to fade and crack in a year or two, they're pretty easy to wipe down with Windex.
But checkerboard court up in Kens- Fish- Port- ...that neighborhood, isn't in a truly vetted area. Architects can choose to be daring, or just cheap and boring. However, the use of these snap-on panels is running rampant in neighborhoods that demand better design and better materials.
|Okay, that's kinda cool.|
From Goldtex Apartments to 1900 Arch to the proposed Hudson Hotel, we're being duped into confusing exciting architecture with the thrifty tactic of slapping multicolored plastic panels on otherwise dull buildings.
|Norman Foster's tallest-in-Philly on one corner, and...this, on the other.|
Architects are dangling a shiny set of keys in our face and we respond with, "ooh, colors." But these quasi-futuristic row homes and apartment buildings aren't anything special. Most aren't even interesting enough to be ugly. Their best attribute may only be the fact that once the style has run its course, it will be that much easier to replace the facade with the next trend.
In the case of the Hudson Hotel, that might be the deliberate plan. Once we tire of block long plastic barcodes, this shoehorned suburban Aloft is a ready built shell that can be refaced with whatever comes next.
|That's the same ledgestone veneer found on every suburban Bonefish Grill in the country, available at Home Depot.|
Sheathing boring buildings with randomly placed color panels is probably the cheapest way to be trendy. But even Hudson's street-facing facade is riddled with already dated materials that scream "King of Prussia strip mall."
The sad truth is hotel goers rarely care about a hotel's architecture, just the amenities. Hudson is catering to people who don't care what Philadelphia looks like, just the spa treatments. That experience can be wedged into any structure, even one as piss-poor as the Hilton Home2 at 12th and Arch.
From Sepviva and Firth's monochromatic corner to pricy parcels near Rittenhouse Square, it's hard to wonder if these designs are simply the trends of the times, or if developers are commissioning something cheap and modular. I can hear the sales pitch, "Want to decorate for the holidays? Snap on some red and green panels, or blue and silver for Hanukkah. Easter? Mix and match!"
Maybe this is the future of design in the ever changing and ever fickle new Millennium: Fashion Plates for home design.