Midday Headlines: Why City-Owned Blight Is So Hard to Get Rid Of

blight The city still festers with zombie properties, many of which have the label “imminently dangerous.” But we already know this, know the age-old adage of the sneaky slumlord skipping town to avoid fines or worse. But what of city-owned blight that endangers surrounding buildings and people? Doesn’t the government get around to fixing/demolishing its own first? Short answer, not exactly. Read more »

Why Do Former Wawas Always Look Like Wawa?

former wawa

The ultimate insult: a Wawa on Mystic Island that’s been turned into a 7-Eleven. Photo via Google Street View.

It was one of the great sadnesses of my life as a native Center Cityan when the Rittenhouse Square Wawa closed. I’d done so much growing up there — bought countless packs of to-be-regretted-later cigarettes, hidden from my parents in the depths of my backpack; giggled with my friends over the Playboys and Penthouses in the very back rows of the magazine racks; stocked up on Butterscotch Krimpets and Jolly Ranchers before the daylong vigils by the fountain in the park, waiting for the boys to walk by.

And then, in 2008, it closed and became  (gasp!) a 7-Eleven. What fresh hell was this? Every day my Center City childhood disappears a bit more, crumbling into Burberry or Cole Hahn ash. But come on, people! Some things are sacred! (At least it didn’t become a Sheetz.)

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I.M. Pei Home Sells for $1.1 Million


Most people know I.M. Pei designed the Society Hill Towers, but projects like this three-story townhome at 251 South Third Street, are less well-known. In this case, the home, which is almost 45 years old, has been completely renovated but retains important architectural details, like a unique staircase lit by a skylight. The sleek, modern kitchen — Wolf, Sub Zero, Gaggenau, Thermador and Miele — was designed by Joanne Hudson, as were the bathrooms. There’s a gated parking space and a large garden too. It’s a wonderful home in a terrific neighborhood — no surprise that it sold fairly quickly.

Slideshow below.

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Tetris on the Cira Centre Tomorrow Night

Cira Centre PongTo kick off this year’s Philly Tech Week, Drexel University and Brandywine Realty Trust have partnered to bring another mega-size video game, Tetris, to the exterior of the iconic Cira Centre next to Amtrak’s 30th Street Station. It’s too late to enter the lottery for a chance to actually play, but everyone will be able to watch as the game takes over both sides of the angular tower tomorrow evening.

During Tech Week last year, lucky players stationed at the Philadelphia Museum of Art got to play Pong on the north side of the building. That game got into the Guiness Book of World Records for “Largest Architectural Video Game Display”: it utilized 460 already installed LEDs over 59,800 square feet of the tower’s north side. This year’s game is set to top that: players will use both the north and south sides of the building to play simultaneously—against each other or cooperatively—with one set of players stationed at Eakins Oval outside the Art Museum, and the other at Drexel.

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Flintstones Furniture to Match Dick Clark’s Unbelievable Flintstones House

livingstone with child

A small child enjoys Stéphanie Marin’s Livingstones. Photo via the designer’s website.

This week Web Urbanist published “Flintstones Furniture: 15 Designs Made of Stone and Lava,” and while I can’t be sure they were thinking of the late Dick Clark’s unbelievable Flintstones house, each of these designs is a lovely complement to his home’s interior. In fact, the gallery offers prospective buyers some decor ideas, should they be overwhelmed by the possibilities.

My favorite pick is the Livingstones, which I’ve long been obsessed with because I’m basically a cat and I just want to sleep all the time. In fact, I love all of Stéphanie Marin‘s work because so much of it caters to the high-end beanbag audience — and you know who you are. Below, a slideshow of Marin’s “stone” work, which would soften the hard edges of Clark’s home, both inside and out.

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Popkin on New MAR Design: Still Mired in Conservatism

museum entrance

“This, I think is most telling about how little this design has moved from mimicry, from its deep, deep conservatism,” says Popkin about the way the museum will meet the street. Rendering via Museum of the American Revolution website.

We asked architecture critic Nathaniel Popkin to comment on the redesign of the American Museum of the Revolution that was approved yesterday by the Philadelphia Art Commission. Popkin has been the most outspoken critic of Robert A.M. Stern’s design for the museum, though he has certainly not been alone (“it’s controversial for its shittiness,” he notes).

After a look at the new renderings, which you can see in a slideshow below, Popkin had to wonder just how much time Stern & co. spent “back at the drawing board” after the Commission requested a redesign. Here’s his assessment:

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Inquirer Marvels Over the MAR’s New Design

redesign of the museum of the american revolution

The new design of the Museum of the American Revolution. Looks a whole lot like the old design.

Robert A.M. Stern turned in what many considered a subpar design for the Museum of the American Revolution. The building’s cupola, especially, was a subject of consternation; called “ham-fisted” and “Disneyesque” by critics, it was just one of several mawkish, neo-historical design notes that the Philadelphia Art Commission nixed when they told Stern to try again.

And so he did, and today the Inquirer has a piece that trumpets! the! success! of the new Commission-approved design (despite the fact that, in my opinion, it’s pretty much as crappy as the old one). The article, rather than reading like journalism, reads like a press release penned by the museum itself. I don’t know why that is, but I’m aware of the fact, shall we say, that the primary backer of the museum, Gerry Lenfest, is part-owner of the Inquirer; and Lew Katz, another part-owner of the Inquirer, is also a museum board member. (Both facts are disclosed in the Inquirer’s article). These facts could be coincidental, of course. Could be.

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Best (Only?) Architecture-Related April Fools Joke

Philadelphia native Louis Kahn at the Salk Institute. Image via ArchDaily.

Philadelphia native Louis Kahn “outside of” the Salk Institute. Image via ArchDaily.

Are famous architects too serious for selfies? Robert Venturi, Philadelphia’s most famous postmodernist, may well have taken a few. But what about modern masters like Mies van der Rohe, Louis Kahn and I.M. Pei? What if they did, too? ArchDaily posted seven Photoshopped images it claimed were dug up from history:

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Will Fort Mifflin Fire Keep the Ghosts Away?

fort mifflin

Photo: Laura Kicey

The city-owned Revolutionary War site Fort Mifflin, operated by a nonprofit, suffered a fire last week in the building known as the officers quarters, which has an interpretive room with furnishings and artifacts, a vault with demonstrating weapons and the more sensitive of the artifacts, and residential space for visitors — like the Boy Scout troop that was at the Fort when the fire broke out.

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