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

Leave a Reply

Comment moderation is enabled, no need to resubmit any comments posted.

Recent Posts
Urban Decay As American As Beer And Apple Pie

Urban Decay As American As Beer And Apple Pie

February 21, 2017  |  The Shadow Knows

The Shadow taps into Philly beer history and frozen pie trivia at the old Adam Scheidt Brewing Company plant on North 9th Street > more

Unlisted Philadelphia: Atlantic Snuff Company

Unlisted Philadelphia: Atlantic Snuff Company

February 17, 2017  |  Unlisted Philadelphia

Architectural illustrator Ben Leech spotlights unique and significant buildings not protected on the local register with his series, Unlisted Philadelphia. In this installment, a High Victorian in Chinatown that's still up to snuff > more

Inside The Empty, Gilded Halls Of Elkins Estate

Inside The Empty, Gilded Halls Of Elkins Estate

February 16, 2017  |  Last Light

Photographer Kris Catherine gives an exclusive look inside the opulent mansions of Elkins Estate > more

Dial Up For The Latest Election News

Dial Up For The Latest Election News

February 14, 2017  |  Harry K's Encyclopedia

Harry K. dials up the Evening Telegraph Information Bureau, a pilot communications service in 1905 that provided Keystone Telephone customers with news and information at a moment's notice > more

La Salle University Threatens Germantown Landmarks

La Salle University Threatens Germantown Landmarks

February 9, 2017  |  Soapbox

On Friday, the Historical Commission will consider legal protections for two historic Germantown homes. Owners La Salle University will oppose the nominations to retain their right to demolition. Arielle Harris makes a case for saving these two Wister family properties and reveals La Salle's long tradition of razing neighborhood landmarks > more

Paging Dr. Typewriter: Healing Old Tech On Fabric Row

Paging Dr. Typewriter: Healing Old Tech On Fabric Row

February 8, 2017  |  Walk the Walk

Bryan Kravitz brings old Remingtons back from the dead at his repair shop in Mt. Airy and typing salon in South Philly. Joe Brin has the story > more