Best Explanation Yet of What the Heck An Earthship Is

earthship

Photo of earthship in Taos, New Mexico by Biodiesel33 via Wikimedia Commons

For reasons I don’t comprehend, Philebrity writes that Tony Lawton, who you’ll meet in the video below, looks like “he’s relocating to his Earthship from his car.” As far as I can see, he’s just a human being in a gray t-shirt. It’s not like he has dreadlocks and a huge beard with food stuck in it. Would a suit and tie have been better? At any rate, whether you like his appearance or not, his presentation — part of an indiegogo campaign that’ll further the Earthship Philadelphia movement — is the first lucid, 101 explanation we’ve heard from Earthship advocates here of exactly what an Earthship is, how it came about, what materials are used, how it works, and how it could be used in this city. (You could probably learn a good deal more at this workshop, but it’ll cost you $25-$50.)

Oh, and FYI Philebs: trying to create sustainable, affordable housing that will, in part, serve the homeless population isn’t “hippie” stuff, even when Crosby Stills & Nash plays in the background of a video about it. It’s 2014. Everyone’s pretty much onboard with this saving-the-planet business.

Video below. Read more »

Glass Tower Starts Construction at 20th and Market

The corner of 20th and Market is going to look at lot different. Full rendering below.

The corner of 20th and Market is going to look at lot different. Full rendering below.

It was more than a year ago when Brandywine Realty Trust announced specific plans for a building that would sit on the lot at 20th and Market Street, next to the Independence Blue Cross building, which recently completed its own street-level renovation. Throughout the day on Friday, there was a lot of activity at 1919 Market Street (the vacant lot’s actual address), with a large construction vehicle making tracks in the dirt as I stared down from my nearby office window 36 stories above. People moved back and forth, industrious as ants. A public announcement had to be coming soon.

Indeed, today the company that was named Developer of the Year by Development Magazine announced that it has formed a joint venture with Berwyn-based real estate company LCOR and the California State Teacher’s Retirement System that will make the 29-story mixed-use building possible. Brandywine will handle retail, which is currently slated to be a ground-floor CVS, and the public parking lot that will accommodate 215 cars. Hunter Roberts Construction will manage the process of building the 455,000-square-foot  tower, which was designed by Barton Partners.

Here’s what we know in terms of details:

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DiStefano: New Center City Office High-Rises Unlikely

This morning’s PhillyDeals column is titled “Are more towers on the horizon?” The answer is, “Probably not.” (I guess “More towers probably not on the horizon” is a dull headline, though.)

On the one hand, there’s phenomenal, eds-and-meds-spurred growth in University City, marked not only by Comcast’s second tower, but—as PhillyDeals’ Joe DiStefano points out—by 2.0 University Place:

Last week, the owners of 2.0 University Place, a year-old green-roofed building west of the Drexel campus, put it up for sale at $46 million, or $469 a square foot.

That’s not quite as much as the Comcast tower – but roughly three times what the city’s dominant landlord, Brandywine Realty Trust, was paying for central Philadelphia office towers just a few years back.

On the other, there’s that phrase in bold (emphasis ours), the stomach-punch of the “was” and “just a few years back.”

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Architype: Civic Studies

Renderings are beginning to meet reality.

A rendering of Dilworth Park.

I guess “romping” is the word for what children were doing on the first day I visited the revamped Dilworth Plaza. Maybe “gamboling.” “Frolicking”? Some were frolicking. There are many words to choose from in the 10-pound thesaurus I recently scored at a used bookstore. Point is, they were having serious fun as they ran through jets of water, adults watching from multicolored cafe chairs. At one point, I saw an African-American kid, an Asian kid and a Latina kid invent a game together. I wouldn’t have been surprised if John Lennon had popped out from behind the puffy clouds to sing “Imagine.”

Not only that — people were reading the new informational panels. They were strolling to the “cafe.” They were chatting in areas that’ll be green space this time next year, and they were walking on pathways that they’ll be able to glide along in ice skates just months from now.

To say this is not the Dilworth Plaza I’m familiar with, as a native Philadelphian, is an understatement.

I turned to my companion and said, “I know there will be naysayers, but I won’t hear a word against it.”

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Photo of the Week: Frank Gehry Gives the Finger to the Spanish Press

guggenheim bilbao

An example of the kind of design some Spaniards call “arquitectura-espectáculo,” aka, the Guggenheim in Bilbao.

Frank Gehry was in Oviedo, Spain this week to receive an award from the Fundación Príncipe de Asturias, which honors artists and arts organizations. The rationale for Gehry’s inclusion reads (translated from the Spanish):

His buildings are characterized by virtuosic play with complex forms, by the use of uncommon materials, like titanium, and by his technological innovation, which has influenced other spheres of art as well.

Apparently, Gehry takes Spanish adoration a bit for granted these days. At a press conference to coincide with the awards, the first question was from a reporter who asked how he responds to the charge that he practices what Spaniards call “arquitectura-espectáculo,” a term basically explained by the Guggenheim in Bilbao.

His answer?

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Photos: Strawbridge’s Becomes Century 21

Century-21

Yesterday morning I went to take a look at what was once Strawbridge and Clothier and is now Century 21 — not a real estate agency, but the Gallery’s new 100,000-square-foot anchor store. Our sister site Shoppist has plenty of information about names you’ll find (Milly, Y-3, Tumi, Le Creuset, etc.) and where you’ll find them (first floor or second). I didn’t take notes on that because I was too obsessed with looking for, and finding, historical details that might ricochet me back to the days when Strawbridge’s was still a thriving entity. After all, that was an important part of Philadelphia’s history. In 1996, when the company was passed from the Strawbridge family hands to the May company, the New York Times published what amounted to a eulogy, “Philadelphia Keeps Strawbridge Name but Loses a Retail Tradition.”

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This Is What a “Philly Sofa” Looks Like

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BoConcept‘s new “Philly Sofa” marks the first time the Danish retailer has named a sofa after an American city. And it’s as smooth as Philly Cream Cheese, isn’t it? The design is vaguely midcentury, and inspired, says the company, “by the laid back and practical lifestyle of Philadelphia.”

Good news for all the relaxed pragmatists out there: Pennsylvania residents who shop at BoConcept Philadelphia or BoConcept King of Prussia between November 1- November 26 get a 10 percent discount on the Philly Sofa, as well as access to the stores’ professional interior design teams:

Perhaps a classic gray or modern white with pops of colored pillows entices. Or opt for a stylish demonstration of Eagles pride with an emerald green sofa and a silver and black throw that will make cheering on game day even more fun.

Please do not opt for that, actually. Just…do not. Meanwhile, a couple more pics of the Philly Sofa below.

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Design Home 2014 Celebrates Ribbon Cutting Tonight

new home picThis year’s Design Home is in a lovely Wyndmoor neighborhood bordering Chestnut Hill. The street, East Gravers Lane, can get almost pastoral when all the leaves are in, and now that fall is here, the trees in the area are flush with color. The custom home, built by Glenn Falso Jr. of Main Street Development and designed by HarmanDeutsch Architecture and Diane Bishop Interiors, features a stone facade to match surrounding and historic properties. As for the interior? Tonight we’ll find out at the ribbon-cutting.

The house is in such a nice neighborhood — go for a drive, walk in the Wissahickon, and check out the house between now and November 16th. All ticket proceeds benefit MANNA.

Before-and-after gallery below.

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Can Center City’s Flying Saucer Be Saved?

A Google Street View photo taken in June of this year shows the building in context.

A Google Street View photo taken in June of this year shows the building in context.

Used to be the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia released an annual list of 12 “endangered properties” — bricks-and-mortar equivalents of trembling polar bears clinging to melting blocks of ice. Today the Alliance announces a change: it’ll release the same kind of list three times a year, with four properties each time, and call it “Places to Save,” which rolls off the tongue and rids the whole endeavor of its woolly mammoth feel.

The four picks for this cycle include the William Penn Inn, the Mt. Moriah Cemetery Gatehouse, the Blue Horizon boxing venue, and the flying saucer in LOVE Park, aka, the Fairmount Park Welcome Center. Now, the first three picks have rather obvious merit, but there are many people who look at that round, midcentury yo-yo building and don’t quite get it. What the heck is it? Why is it?

Designed by architect Roy Larsen of Harbeson, Hough, Livingston & Larsen, it was built in 1960 as the Philadelphia Hospitality Center. This was well before the city’s visitors center was even a glimmer in Philadelphia’s eye, and the architecture and concept were both cutting-edge at the time. “There was a huge amount of civic pride at building this architectural wonder at the base of Penn Center,” says Ben Leech, the Alliance’s director of advocacy. “Architecturally, it’s the last best example of postwar Penn Center optimism.”

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