Everybody Hates Dilworth Park [UPDATED]

dilworth-park-panorama-940

UPDATE 9/9/2014: OK, OK. So not everybody hates Dilworth Park.

ORIGINAL:

Well, the redesign of City Hall’s Dilworth Plaza debuted last week as the $55 million Dilworth Park, with all of the political blowhard speeches, self-back patting and pompous fanfare that you’d imagine with such an event in Philadelphia. But make no mistake about it: Everybody hates Dilworth Park. Read more »

Morning Headlines: Saffron Crashes the Dilworth Praise Party

Renderings are beginning to meet reality.

Maybe she liked the renderings better?

The torrent of accolades for the city’s newest public (well, “public,” but more on that in a second) park continued through the weekend … right until Inga Saffron’s review dropped on Sunday.

Saffron begins innocuously enough, praising the cafe and popular spray fountain. Things start to turn when she italicizes the word “park.” Uh oh. Then the death blow:

But the vast granite prairie is still very much a plaza, with all the weaknesses the word implies.

To be clear, Saffron had no love for the park’s predecessor. And she does concede that the CCD has made some major improvements:

There is no doubt that this important civic space, once a smelly, run-down municipal embarrassment in the heart of Philadelphia, has been greatly improved by the Center City District’s Paul Levy, who marshaled a dream team of Philadelphia’s most renowned designers and engineers. The amenities, from the food vendor to the picnic lawn, are reason enough to applaud.

But what follows is a thorough catalog of the park’s deficiencies. Most of all, she seems offended by the amount of hardscape. The park misses the mark when it comes to balancing its position as Philadelphia’s “communal family room” while maintaining enough pomp for the city’s “civic stage,” Saffron says.

Yes, there is real magic when the fountain’s jets of water shoot into action, but inactivated, the granite landscape is dry and stiff. The new Dilworth is a suit in a jeans-and-T-shirt world.

Read more »

Morning Headlines: Inga Saffron’s Take on Building Plan Behind Rodin

Photo by jcapaldi</a" via Flickr.

Photo by jcapaldi via Flickr.

An apartment building has been proposed for the narrow space behind the Rodin Museum, and you can bet the Inquirer’s Inga Saffron has feelings about it (and her usual well-reasoned, bigger-picture analysis).

At issue is not just the aesthetics of the grounds ringing the well-loved museum. There’s also the city’s “low line” rail park to consider. The “low line,” of course, is the underground equivalent to the city’s other dreamed-of rail park. Should the Cross Properties (owned by David Blumenfeld — not that Blumenfeld, but his brother) plan move forward as proposed, the nascent park idea would be kaput.

Saffron explains:

Read more »

Morning Headlines: A Mini PSFS Building? Historical Commission Makes Final Decision In One Week

Big Brothers Big Sisters Warner Bros film exchange 230 N 13th Street

Could a smaller model of the PSFS building rise from the corner of 13th and Florist? That’s what Inga Saffron seems to think after reviewing the planned addition for the former Big Brothers Big Sisters headquarters, a proposal the Historical Commission must decide on next Friday.

See, soon after the historic property went on the market last June (it was once the Warner Bros. film exchange building), Baywood Hotels expressed interest in adding a tower on top of the original Art Deco building, in pure Hearst Tower-style.

A July 11th vote by the commission approved this proposal, despite its architectural subcommittee protesting its design and subsequently offering suggestions for improvement. Spg3, the architect Baywood hired, took some of these suggestions, resulting in what Saffron calls a “not-so-subtle copy of the shaft of the PSFS building.”

Read more »

Open House at 2116 Chestnut on Thursday

2116 Chestnut. Image via the building's website.

2116 Chestnut. Image via the building’s website.

2116 Chestnut, the 34-story apartment tower near Rittenhouse Square that opened last summer, will host an open house on Thursday from 6 to 9 p.m. The event will be held on the building’s rooftop deck, and will feature complimentary cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. There will be a DJ and tours of sample apartment units for all guests.

The slick glass 2116 Chestnut has 321 units and was built by the John Buck Co. of Chicago, with additional funding from the Indure Fund, a union-backed real estate investment fund, and the state of Pennsylvania. Electricians’ union chief John Dougherty played a major role in getting the project off the ground.

Read more »

Ted Beitchman Is Back With Fast Philly Sports (And Inga Saffron Is Not Amused)

philly sportJust when we’d almost forgotten about publisher, ex-convict, and colorful Philadelphia character Ted Beitchman, he has resurfaced with a new website: FastPhillySports.com.

Beitchman is the publisher of Philly Sport magazine (left), which apparently still exists. Prior to Philly Sport, he published the magazines RealPhilly and The Player. Both were spectacular flops.

His other claim to fame is that he held a senior position in Ed Rendell’s mayoral administration, prior to being convicted of tax evasion and impersonating a state official.

If you ask Philadelphia notables about Beitchman, they tell you fantastic stories that could fill an unauthorized biography, but they’ll never tell you on-the-record. For some reason, people seem to be scared of Ted Beitchman.

Read more »

Morning Headlines: Carl Dranoff’s One Riverside Gets Urban-Friendly Redesign

carl dranoff one riverside

Rendering of the project via Philly.com

“A true urban tower,” that’s what Pulitzer-winning architecture critic Inga Saffron has called Carl Dranoff’s redesigned One Riverside project at 25th and Locust. The building, proposed last summer, had originally sparked complaints from locals and Saffron herself.

So what exactly are the differences between the old and new design?

Read more »

Inga’s Zingers: Nine Great Quips from Pulitzer Winner Inga Saffron

Yesterday, the 2014 Pulitzer Prizes were announced, and Inga Saffron of the Inquirer won the Pulitzer for criticism!

Saffron’s one of my favorite local writers, and I’m thrilled to see her win the prize after being a finalist several times before. (Unlike many other journalism awards, the Pulitzers are legit because they come with a cash prize — $10,000!) It’s extra cool because, well, how many American newspapers have an architecture critic on staff any more? Or ever?

As a big enthusiast of city living, I’m thrilled the Inquirer has such a passionate advocate for urbanism on its staff. Critics are important. The best critics have the opportunity to praise worthy subjects and call out crap. There’s just so much crap out there, in every field, and so much of it goes un-criticized — whether it’s because the people behind it are nice, or because they’re powerful, or whatever. Not all that crap deserves to be called out, but a lot of it does. And Inga Saffron is one of the best at it. I’d put her ability to call out crap at the level of another great critic and Pulitzer winner, Roger Ebert. She is that good.

To commemorate one of my favorite critics receiving such a prestigious award, I went through Saffron’s archives and found some of my favorite lines of hers.

Read more »

Saffron Wins Pulitzer for Architecture Criticism

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Saffron has been a finalist before, but this is her first Pulitzer win for architecture criticism. In fact, we hope the win celebrates the very idea of architecture criticism, which isn’t, you’d admit, quite as popular as other kinds. (Is there a Rotten Tomatoes of buildings? There should be.)

Between 1970 and 2014, only four winners of a Criticism Pulitzer have been architecture writers: the Chicago Tribune’s Blair Kamin, the Boston Globe’s Robert Campbell, the San Francisco Chronicle’s Allan Temko, and the New York Times’ Paul Goldberger.

Make that five!

Inga Saffron Wins a Pulitzer Prize

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