The most famous house not standing in Philadelphia is almost ready to receive visitors again as the reconstruction of Franklin Court in Old City has moved above ground.
Work began on the $21 million restoration of the Independence National Historical Park museum memorializing the only home Ben Franklin ever built in October 2011. We were able to grab some shots of the construction work on a recent stroll down Chestnut Street, where one of the two entrances to Franklin Court is located.
The “ghost houses” – Robert Venturi’s imaginative approach to evoking structures for which no physical evidence save their foundations survive – only need a fresh coat of paint. The real work has largely taken place below ground, where dated 1970s exhibits have been replaced, leaky ceilings have been repaired and the structure brought back to a state of good repair.
Photo: K. Clappa for GPTMC
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Just a couple weeks ago we wrote with local pride about the Vanna Venturi House in Chestnut Hill, designed by architect Robert Venturi for his mother. It is featured in a PBS docuseries called The 10 Buildings That Changed America along with enormous architectural knockouts like Mies van der Rohe’s Seagram Building in New York, Frank Gehry’s Disney Concert Hall in LA and Eero Saarinen’s Dulles International Airport.
Venturi’s more modest contribution, often called Mother House, was built between 1962 and 1964. The Hughes family–a Penn professor, an artist and their daughter–has owned the house since 1973. But according to Architectural Record, they have to sell the home as soon as they find an organization that will accept a preservation easement that was developed in concert with Venturi’s firm. The reasons are financial.
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The renowned Philadelphia-based architecture firm Venturi Scott Brown Associates has always had something of a gender complex. Founded and guided by the married partnership of Denise Scott Brown and Robert Venturi, the firm was often covered in the press and within architecture circles with a primary emphasis on Venturi. In part, this was generational, but some contend it leaves Venturi with the more recognizable legacy–despite the fact that Scott Brown continues to work.
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