Breakthrough At The King Of Jeans

 

King of Jeans site revised rendering | Image: Qb3

Thanks to a provision in the city’s new zoning code, the developer Max Glass was able to add a floor to his proposed apartment-office-retail building at East Passyunk and Mifflin Streets in East Passyunk Crossing. The additional floor transforms what was a fairly interesting remake of the iconic South Philly King of Jeans corner into a piece of contemporary architecture that conveys movement, dynamism, and transparency. (Saving the wonderful K of J sign in place was never a realistic idea, but it’s likely to be preserved off site.)

With the additional floor, the offset window pattern the architects at Qb3 studio designed to break up the traditional window-over-window layout is given an additional power: to convey the fluid energy of the city street.

King of Jeans original proposal | Image: Qb3

This is, indeed, a veritable breakthrough. For generations we’ve lived by what might have been a God-given rule, that neighborhood buildings, as long as they weren’t churches or factories or schools, needed to be no taller than 35 feet.

Most of us like this rule. It has given Philadelphia neighborhoods the distinctive human scale that so ably enhances sociability and community. That’s what makes the Passyunk building noteworthy, for it reminds us that sometimes there are rewards to breaking with tradition.

Photo: Hidden City Daily

The reward in this case will be a building of increased density that is capable of addressing multiple neighborhood needs all at once–the kind of flexibility of purpose that’s a true hallmark of successful contemporary architecture.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the rather backwards architecture of two Toll Brothers’ projects now underway. The principle design idea behind these projects is mimicry of traditional architecture. Several readers wrote in to say that Toll shouldn’t be excoriated–they’re merely building what people want. While I reject the argument that one ought not question the supreme wisdom of the market, I do agree that most people like traditional architecture, even when it is faked. This is the case all over the world.

At the Krishna Singh Nanotechnology Center at Penn, under construction, innovation in the lab meets design innovation | Photo: Nathaniel Popkin

Certainly, we give our lives meaning by connecting to the past.

But we also want, with equal force and desire, to break with tradition and invent the future. We’re desperate to be cool, to be cooler than the rest. For cities, this desire is survival. It is no coincidence that what characterizes Philadelphia’s very real reemergence is the sense that it’s a cool place to be–and not cool because it’s grungy and old and idiosyncratic, but because our chefs innovate, our dancers innovate, our fashion designers innovate, our scientists innovate.

And our real estate developers? I have a feeling we’re heading for a breakthrough.

About the author

Hidden City co-editor Nathaniel Popkin’s latest book is the novel Lion and Leopard (The Head and The Hand Press). He is also the author of Song of the City (Four Walls Eight Windows/Basic Books) and The Possible City (Camino Books). He is senior writer and script editor of the Emmy-winning documentary series “Philadelphia: The Great Experiment” and the fiction review editor of Cleaver Magazine. His essays and book reviews appear in the Wall Street Journal, Public Books, The Kenyon Review, The Millions, and Fanzine.



7 Comments


  1. This is great!

  2. You are right. The glass addition by Glass looks great in that rendering.

  3. It’s a real clear-story!

  4. You mean the sign with the girl on her knees about to give the guy a BJ is gonna be preserved? WTF? I’ve protested that piece of misogynist s–t to the owner!

  5. Dear Nathaniel,
    Though I agree with you that the rendering is a nice image, I am skeptical that we are seeing what will be built. To keep it simple there are aspects of the representation that suggest some very ambitious and highly unlikely building techniques:

    The top floor has oversized stationary windows that start at the roof line, missing is a parapet wall or roof joists.

    The spans above the glazing and the layout of the lower windows would necessitate a secondary structure on the interior of the building to handle the load on the facade which would function as a curtain wall.

    The windows in the brick section look to be set over 12-16″ deep and though I would like to think that this is because they are building a passive haus certified structure which requires overly thick walls to house the insulation, again it seems highly unlikely they would lose this square footage on the interior or build a facade that hangs more than a foot over the property line.

    I hope I am wrong, or, I hope that the creativity they displayed in photoshop will translate in a similar but different actual building.

    Jeff

    • right on. The devil is in the details. I would be very, very surprized if the built project looks anywhere as good as the drawing. Developers are fully aware of the difference between plans and reality, but they also understand the power of PR.

  6. Can we get some clarification?
    What exactly is “traditional” architecture?

Trackbacks

  1. The Morning Briefing: Hardball tactics | SmartPlanet
  2. The King of Jeans Abdicates
Recent Posts
Report: Philly Lead Exposure Greater Than Flint

Report: Philly Lead Exposure Greater Than Flint

February 5, 2016  |  Morning Blend

Contextualizing the Philly lead exposure numbers, L&I moves to make demolition permit process more efficient, building a stealth tower by-right, and 20 units for starving artists coming to West Philadelphia > more

Naming The Nameless On Lincoln Drive

Naming The Nameless On Lincoln Drive

February 5, 2016  |  Vantage

An eye-catching installation of t-shirts on Lincoln Drive aims to give a name to each of the victims of the city's gun violence. Brad Maule visits the historic Unitarian Society of Germantown and soaks in a heavy and cathartic experience > more

After Trade, Bourse Business Model To Tempt Techies

After Trade, Bourse Business Model To Tempt Techies

February 4, 2016  |  Morning Blend

New owners to position Bourse building as tech start-up magnet, the PR game that Temple needs to play for its stadium, Mt. Airy USA’s Philadelphia Immigrant Innovation Hub to launch tonight, and a post-storm sneckdown breakdown > more

Breaking Through Historic Preservation's Color Line

Breaking Through Historic Preservation’s Color Line

February 4, 2016  |  Developing Challenges, Vantage

Diversity in preservation is a tricky thing. When cultural history speaks more for a building than architecture merit ears often go deaf. Hidden City co-editor Michael Bixler sits down with All That Philly Jazz director Faye Anderson to discuss landmarking the former home of Malcolm X and the precarious nature of protecting Philadelphia's built African-American heritage > more

CDR Blasts

CDR Blasts “Amateurish” Design For Callowhill Mixed-Use

February 3, 2016  |  Morning Blend

Civic Design Review committee dismisses Callowhill mixed-use proposal, work on The Beacon begins at 16th & Walnut, Richard Allen memorialized on USPS stamp, and NextFab’s open studio sessions winding down > more

Restoring The Hale Building — Patina And All

Restoring The Hale Building — Patina And All

February 2, 2016  |  Morning Blend

Hale Building update, Bethel Burying Ground added to National Register of Historic Places, and Spring Garden warehouse to receive addition > more