When designing projects, large or small, architects should take into account more than just the needs and wants of the client in fashioning them. They should also take into account how the project will fit in with (or stand out from) its surroundings and the impact it will have on how the urban fabric functions. A series of videos recently released by BLT Architects (BLTa), one of this city’s largest and best-known firms, gives some insight into how this process works, or is supposed to.
Of course, aesthetic considerations should also come into play, and here, the track record is as mixed as the contextual one is. The building featured in the videos, the BLTa-designed East Market development, is a splendid example of taking urban context into account in site design, but aesthetically, it perhaps fits in too well with its surroundings, with a residential tower that more closely resembles its (former) office-building neighbors than distinguishes itself from them as a place where people will actually live.
The 2012 revision of Philadelphia’s zoning code included a new process intended to prod architects to dive deeper into these aspects of the design process for large projects on both functional and aesthetic grounds. But as the Civic Design Review panel, whose job it is to do the prodding, only plays an advisory role, it remains up to the architect and client to determine whether and how they do that diving. Read more »