Barnes Architects and “Skyspace” Artist to Receive National Medal of Arts

The new Barnes Foundation in Center City

Newsworks reports that President Obama will award the National Medal of Arts to Billie Tsien and Tod Williams, architects of the new Barnes Foundation (as well as Penn’s Skirkanich Hall and two dorms at Haverford College), and to James Turrell, the extraordinary light artist who recently created one of his signature “skyspaces” in Chestnut Hill, along with nine other recipients.

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New Renderings of Vine Street Mormon Tower

The proposed apartment tower, with the proposed brick meetinghouse in front of it, and the under-construction temple in the foreground.

The Mormon Church’s planned apartment tower and small meetinghouse on Vine Street is about to go through the city’s Civic Design Review process—which means we get a bunch of new project renderings, plans, and specifications.

The project, which was announced several months ago by Mayor Nutter, will fill the block-long vacant lot on the north side of Vine Street between Franklin Town Boulevard and 16th Street, right across from the site of the still-under-construction Mormon temple. It’ll include a new access road through the middle of the site between the two buildings.

The tower will rise 32 stories and 360 feet, and will house 264 apartments, 13 town homes, and plenty of residential amenities including a large outdoor terrace, wraparound retail space, and two levels of underground parking. Portions will have green roofs. The meetinghouse, to be sited between the temple and the tower, will rise two stories and house a chapel, cultural center, “baptismal font,” educational facilities, and an outdoor courtyard.

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Growing Up in Center City in the ’70s and ’80s

Children playing in the Art Museum fountains, August 1973.

Children playing in the Art Museum fountains in August 1973. Photograph by Dick Swanson/The National Archive

Well, I did it. I finally wrote about what it was like growing up in Center City. I think I’ll carry the article around (it’s in the August print edition of Philly Mag) so when I’m faced with the below exchange — usually at a bar — I can just hand it out. Here’s how it goes:

Random Person: Where are you from?
Me: Philly.
RP: Born and raised?
Me: Born and raised.
RP: What part?
Me: Center City.
RP: That’s unusual.
Me: I guess so.
RP: Where in Center City?
Me: Mostly 22nd and Spruce.
RP: Oh, wow – in Center City.
Me: Yup.
RP: What was that like?

Here’s my answer.

Growing Up in Philadelphia: The Lost City

The Beury Building Is Up for Sheriff’s Sale

Photo by Laura Kicey.

Photo by Laura Kicey.

The poor Beury Building has not been rescued in Divine Lorraine fashion. In fact, the latest listings show that the foreclosed building will go up for Sheriff’s Sale on August 5. Mind you, it’s had liens on it since 2011 and could have gone to Sheriff’s Sale well before now, but that’s Philadelphia for you.

The building is owned by North Philly Works Inc., which is registered to New York-based entrepreneur Imar Hutchins–owner of Florida Avenue Grill in Washington, D.C. and no stranger to foreclosures himself. It’s also part of Shift Capital‘s portfolio; Hutchins is a Shift Capital principal, though its main number yields a voice mail for Shift founder Brian Murray, who’s out of town until July 29th. I left a message for a disembodied voice who may or may not be the robot for Imar Hutchins, and sent an email as well. Someone will get back to us to fill us in, I’m sure. Meanwhile, here is a spectacular gallery of the building taken by Laura Kicey.

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Video: “Philly Home Portrait”

Photo by Cory J. Popp

Photo by Cory J. Popp

Austin Hodges and Billy Cress have a unique way of showcasing Philadelphia’s sly beauty: photographing its residential facades. Using the hashtag #phillyhomeportrait on the popular image-sharing app Instagram, they have between them more than 44,00 followers. Each photo they post gets hundreds, sometimes thousands, of likes. They’ve also self-published two books about the homes.

A short film called Philly Home Portrait — which comes online today — takes a deeper look at their process. “I love this story because it’s all about being aware of the everyday beauty around us,” says filmmaker Cory Popp. “It’s easy to pass these places without thinking twice, but these home portraits are a conscious effort to capture that beauty.”

Popp has taken the same kind of photos, and now has a dedicated site where prints are available for sale.

Video and stills below.

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Video: The Latest Look Inside the Divine Lorraine

Photo by Jeff Fusco

Photo by Jeff Fusco

Oh, ye of little faith. That’s probably what developer Eric Blumenfeld wants to tell every naysayer who laughed when he bought the Divine Lorraine for the second time with dreams of turning it into a school or apartment complex. Now Blumenfeld has the funding to start renovations in about two months, according to his interview with KYW NewsRadio’s Hadas Kuznits, which draws out more of the story. Kuznits has also posted a number of YouTube videos in which she and Blumenfeld tour the site as it stands today. Last chance, most likely, to see it in its decrepit form.

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Morning Headlines: Proposed Hotel Near Convention Center Clears Hurdle

The existing building, courtesy of this sale flyer

PlanPhilly reports that a proposal to construct a 12-story addition atop the former Warner Bros. distribution center on 13th Street just north of the Pennsylvania Convention Center received approval from the Philadelphia Historical Commission on July 11, and has video of the meeting. An earlier version of the proposal was rejected in June by the commission’s Architecture Committee.

The two-story Art Moderne building, designed by Frank Furness protege William H. Lee, was recently listed as being for sale for $2.75 million. It is currently owned by Big Brothers Big Sisters.

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Habitat: Colonial-Era Farmhouse in Chester Heights

Photo by Laura Kicey.

Photo by Laura Kicey.

Erin Cochran said it was her husband who first fell in love with their three-bedroom Delco farmhouse. “I can’t say that I did at first,” she said. “He had to talk me into it.”

In 1996, the farmhouse was still broken into three very distinct periods of its evolution. There was the Colonial-era (they are told) foundation of the home, a Victorian-era front porch they believe was built after the Civil War, and a family room that had been added on in 1989. Cochran said the three parts of the home felt disjointed. The main entrance was also through the addition. “You didn’t know where you were when you got into the house,” she said.

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Morning Headlines: Bondholders Target Please Touch Exhibits

Memorial Hall. Photo by Jeff Fusco.

Memorial Hall. Photo by Jeff Fusco.

The Please Touch Museum, the beloved interactive children’s museum that moved to Memorial Hall in 2008, is in deep financial trouble, and now debtors are threatening to nab specific exhibits for sale. You can read more here about this particular development, but from a real estate perspective — no, from a historical and architectural perspective — the stakes are high: Memorial Hall is a nationally registered building that was renovated specifically to accommodate the museum. If Please Touch leaves, the fate of the building’s use is once again thrown into question.

Please Touch’s move into Memorial Hall was motivated by the need for a larger space for all the visitors the museum was getting. The new location, outside of a main corridor, was risky, and the numbers didn’t materialize as expected. The funding for the move and the renovation came from multiple sources: private donations, and federal, state, and local dollars.

The museum took out an 80-year lease on the building. We have various calls in to find out what happens — again — to beleaguered Memorial Hall should the museum leave its new home.

Please Touch Museum May Be Forced to Sell Off Some Exhibits [Philly Mag]

History of Memorial Hall and the 1876 Centennial [Please Touch]

More news this way…

Protest shows anger, frustration after fatal SW Phila. fire
Partial collapse in West Philadelphia [Newsworks]
Forgotten No More: the LeGar Building [Hidden City]
Lower Merion residents again raise opposition to Bala Avenue bus parking lot [Main Line Times]

Additional reporting by Joseph Williams.

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