The “sealing room” in the temple, where Mormon couples are joined together for eternity. | Photos: © 2016 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. unless otherwise noted
“Like Solomon’s Temple, we seek to use the finest materials and the highest quality craftsmanship in our construction,” Elder Larry Y. Wilson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said as he welcomed the news media to this morning’s tour of the new Philadelphia Pennsylvania Temple, the first Mormon temple in the Keystone State and the 152nd to be completed worldwide.
That commitment to quality showed in ways large and small throughout the four-story, 208-foot-high structure, the most unabashedly historical of the LDS Church’s recent efforts. This, Wilson explained, was because “the church has tried to interpret the history and the architecture of this city in the construction of the temple.” Read more »
Villanova’s new mixed-use development will enliven the corner of Lancaster Avenue (foreground) and Ithan Avenue. | Rendering © Robert A.M. Stern Architects, courtesy Brian Communications
With its announcement that it will build a new, 1,100-bed student residence hall with street-floor retail across Lancaster Avenue from the main entrance to its campus, Villanova University has taken a small but significant step towards making its campus look and feel more like a community.
That’s because the mixed-use building, designed by Robert A.M. Stern Architects in partnership with Voith & McTavish Architects and to be built by Torcon, will replace what is now a large surface parking lot at the corner of Lancaster and South Ithan avenues.
It will also make Villanova students themselves more a part of a community, according to Chris Kovolski, assistant vice president for government relations and external affairs at Villanova. Read more »
Waterfront View of the Camden Waterfront – copyright Volley for Robert A.M. Stern Architects
You know what’s cool? A billion dollars.
The famous line from The Social Network seems apropos today, as the City of Camden has officially announced an ambitious plan to completely transform 16-acres of prime waterfront land between the Ben Franklin Bridge and the Adventure Aquarium.
Liberty Property Trust, the mega-developers behind the Navy Yard and Center City’s Comcast towers, will spearhead the $1 billion proposed development, the largest ever private sector investment in the city’s history.
If realized, the project will (largely) swap what seems like miles of surface parking lots for a live/work/play mix of glitzy office towers and low-rises, a residential component, lively restaurants and retail and even a hotel.
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It’s expected to open sometime in late 2016, but construction of the Museum of the American Revolution will soon be underway. In fact, the Inquirer’s Stephan Salisbury reports that a symbolic groundbreaking took place yesterday for the $119 million building designed Robert A.M. Stern.
You may recall the museum was previously under a lot of scrutiny when renderings first came out, leaving a number of people unimpressed. “Could [it] be constructed in a way to make its Georgian details feel plausibly like real architecture?” asked Inga Saffron in 2012. Even after its redesign, the building’s appearance was still deemed uninspired.
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Demolition work was under way on the old Visitor Center as of April 26. Photo: Izzy Kornblatt
The old Independence Visitor Center, constructed by the National Park Service for the 1976 Bicentennial celebration, has not been receiving a lot of love in recent years. A replacement on Independence Mall opened in 2001, rendered the old building basically obsolete; and about a decade ago, the Bicentennial bell housed in the center’s bell tower broke and was never repaired. Now the building is being demolished to make room for the planned Museum of the American Revolution, and no one, as far as I can tell, seems to really mind.
The building’s architect, Peter Chermayeff, doesn’t either. “I’m not surprised that the building is being replaced, because I don’t think of it as very strong or a very important piece of contemporary architecture,” he said when informed of the demolition. “I’m not terribly sorry to hear that it’s going.”
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“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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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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Former rendering of the future museum.
It’s not set in stone, but the redesign of the Museum of the American Revolution has received approval from Philadelphia’s Art Commission, which sent Robert A.M. Stern architects back to the drawing board last February. Can you spot the differences between the old design (above) and the new one below?:
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Hidden City co-editor Nathaniel Popkin, who recently published an Inquirer piece about Robert A.M. Stern’s unappealing design for the Museum of the American Revolution (rendering above), has gone a step further in his opposition: He’s written a Declaration of Architectural Independence that serves as the basis for a petition on Change.org.
Those who sign the petition, which is directed to the City of Philadelphia Art Commission, “demand that the Commission use its full Power and Prestige to rectify this abominable design and replace it with one that will, in body and in spirit, embrace the City and the Revolution it purports to celebrate.”
The Declaration in full, below.
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Designing Philadelphia’s newest museum has proven to be quite a process. Last month, for example, architect Robert A.M. Stern presented renderings of the Museum of the American Revolution to members of Philadelphia’s Art Commission. The commission–whose approval the architect must have before continuing the project–was not fond of said plans.
The building was cited as being bland, but since refashioning its architecture to be more consistent with nearby landmarks (Independence Hall and others of the like), Stern’s adherence to neighborhood character (which isn’t all it’s cracked up to be) comes off as a “willful blindness,” as Hidden City editor and novelist Nathaniel Popkin writes:
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