Up Close and Impersonal

 

A lot of people don’t have much affection for the austere high-rise structures built after WWII. All that raw concrete, steel and glass isn’t exactly warm and inviting, and I admit I made my fair share of jokes about the core buildings on Temple University’s main campus when I was a student there. Yet I’ve come to love buildings like this. Being surrounded by architects helps (I work as the communications director for an architectural nonprofit), and so does photography. There’s something fascinating about breaking these buildings down into geometrical slices. The symmetry…the lines…the shadows–there’s something transformative about viewing a building this way. Often, they cease acting as buildings and become functional abstract art on a grand and highly visible scale.

William J. Green Jr. Federal Building, 76 N. 6th Street

 

Philadelphia Police Department “Roundhouse” Headquarters, 8th and Race streets

 

Municipal Services Building, 1401 JFK Boulevard

 

National Museum of Jewish American History, Fifth and Market Streets

 

Hopkinson House, 604 S. Washington Square

 

1515 Arch Street

 

Eight Penn Center, 1628 JFK Boulevard

 

1700 Market Street

 

Four Penn Center, 1600 JFK Boulevard

 

Parking garage, 11th and Filbert streets

 

James Aloysius Byrne Federal Courthouse, 6th and Market streets

 

About the author

Dominic Mercier is a freelance writer, photographer, and graphic designer and Philadelphia native. He is a 2001 graduate of Temple University, where he majored in journalism. He is the former managing editor of Montgomery Newspapers and press officer at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. He currently serves as the communications director for the Philadelphia Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. More of his photographic work can be seen here

Send a message!



6 Comments


  1. Nice work, Dominic. The one of the Hopkinson House completely threw me — I couldn’t place it at all. The one of the Green Federal Building is excellent too.

  2. I’m one of the few Philadelphians who has a fondness for these buildings.

    ps it is Hopkinson House.

  3. Great job Dom. Glad I came and looked at the whole job.

  4. These are great buildings (well most of them) and great photos. No apologies are needed for loving moderism. There is as much study in their proportions as in the finest acanthus!

  5. I’ve spent an abnormal amount of time photographing buildings all over town and the post-war/Brutalist creations are much like the city they call home in that they require some amount of effort to really enjoy. They don’t wow you with any particular styling or details at first and work very well as abstract objects. They certainly have a place in a cityscape but having a city full of them is like a diet consisting chiefly of Doritos – plenty of flavor, little substance.

    Your photographs do them justice. Philadelphians aren’t particularly given to looking up much (which is actually a good thing) but if we were we’d often be disappointed by what we saw. Seeing some buildings as you depict them here gives them a certain grace an untrained eye may not be able to discern.

  6. Thanks for all the kind words, folks!

Trackbacks

  1. Architectural Abstractions
  2. Dominic Mercier | Photography » Blog Archive » Ugly Ducklings
Recent Posts
Wissahickon Valley Park Poised To Expand

Wissahickon Valley Park Poised To Expand

July 7, 2015  |  Morning Blend

A few more acres for Wissahickon Valley Park?, Roxborough civic gives up on Wendy’s fight, philanthropy to support literacy programs in schools, and developments in GHo > more

Parkway Institutions To Take Revenue Hit From Pope Visit

Parkway Institutions To Take Revenue Hit From Pope Visit

July 6, 2015  |  Morning Blend

The financial inconvenience of being part of history, Taller Puertorriqueño to break ground on $11.4 million project in Fairhill this fall, celebrating the half-century fight for LGBT rights in the Gayborhood, and frequent commuter discounts likely to return for Delaware River bridge users > more

The Tastiest Morsel Of Season City

The Tastiest Morsel Of Season City

July 6, 2015  |  The Shadow Knows

On the sleepy 200 block of North 13th Street the former Ballinger Building is steamy with the scent of dim sum and a wide range of former tenants that will send an appetite for adaptive reuse into overdrive. If the building's Renaissance façade doesn't whet the palette, its history of notable 20th century construction companies, sexploitation films, and enterprising architectural firms will. The Shadow dishes out this multicourse meal from the outer edges of Center City > more

Summer Break

Summer Break

June 29, 2015  |  News

The Hidden City Daily team is taking a short summer vacation. We'll be back next Monday, July 6th. Have a great Independence Day! > more

Taking Inventory With The Philadelphia Church Project

Taking Inventory With The Philadelphia Church Project

June 26, 2015  |  Vantage

The fabric of Philadelphia's sacred architecture is slowly disintegrating as religious neighborhood landmarks give way to new construction. The Philadelphia Church Project, a growing online record of the city's historic sancturaries, has been steadily amassing a church database for almost 8 years. Hidden City co-editor Michael Bixler checked in with the founder of the website to discuss church closings and the project in detail > more

More Starchitecture Coming To The Navy Yard

More Starchitecture Coming To The Navy Yard

June 26, 2015  |  Morning Blend

A “landmark event” set for Tuesday, Temple (likely) makes room for new stadium, ROYGBIV in the Gayborhood, and contemplating the future of a South Philly community center > more