Hot Or Not?

 

Editor’s Note: Philadelphia is at the edge of a pretty substantial building boom. The earliest set of new buildings is up and ready for some critical review. We asked University of the Arts industrial design professor and design practitioner Jason Lempieri, whose own house renovation was featured recently in the Inquirer, to rate them. So Jason, hot or not?

Krishna P. Singh Center for Nanotechnology at the University of Pennsylvania | Photo: Peter Woodall

Krishna P. Singh Center for Nanotechnology at the University of Pennsylvania | Photo: Peter Woodall

totallyKrishna P. Singh Center for Nanotechnology at the University of Pennsylvania

3200 block of Walnut Street
Weiss/Manfredi Architects, University of Pennsylvania developer
The Singh Center is stunningly green despite the energy-intensive tech inside. The curiously cantilevered “forum” gestures to the Penn campus while helping to mark the edge of the site. Furthermore, the floatation allows a diagonal view into the transparent facility beyond–an invitation to the future of science. And expansion is easier than expected; it just happens at the micro-scale.

LeBow College of Business | Photo: Peter Woodall

LeBow College of Business | Photo: Peter Woodall

hotLeBow College of Business

32nd and Market Streets
Robert A.M. Stern Architects & Voith & Mactavish Architects llp/Drexel University developer
Drexel is on an urbanization mission and the LeBow business school is no exception. The permeable ground floor coupled with an intelligent approach to the triangular site make for a decent urban insertion. The varied, environmentally-oriented, double-height fenestration does much to enhance the Center City-facing tower. These facades are all business; studied at length to to take into consideration program, views, and daylight.

HN7

Chestnut Square at Drexel | Photo: Peter Woodall

notChestnut Square at Drexel

3200 Chestnut Street
Robert A.M. Stern Architects/Drexel University & American Campus Communities developers
Just blink and add precast panels and voila!–a modern dorm is born. The ground floor addresses the street, but the upper levels awkwardly overhang like a split-level. One vertical and two linear recesses break up this upper mass encouraging a high velocity street perspective. The faster you go, the better the building looks.

HN1

2116 Chestnut Street | Photo: Peter Woodall

not2116 Chestnut

2116 Chestnut Street
Hartshorne & Plunkard Architects/John Buck Company & UNITE developers
This naked glass box looks directly at its older clothed cousin down the block, and hardly projects any further technological leap. New residents will bake in the western sun. The low height ground floor is a missed high end retail opportunity and the frosted windows above for parking aren’t fooling anybody. At least the adjacent liturgical tower is still part of the street perspective due to the tower setback.

HN3

GlaxoSmithKline North American headquarters | Photo: Peter Woodall

notGlaxoSmithKline North American headquarters

5 Crescent Drive, Philadelphia Navy Yard
Robert A.M. Stern Architects/GSK and Liberty Property Trust/Synterra Partners developers
Ensconced in Philly’s own low-scale La Defense, this glass pillowed office complex has a redeeming interior, but a “Gehry-lite” exterior. At least we can see other more remarkable structures in its reflective facade.

HN4

Iroko Headquarters | Photo: Peter Woodall

hotIroko Headquarters

One Kew Place–150 Rouse Boulevard, Philadelphia Navy Yard
Digsau Architects/Liberty Property Trust/Synterra Partners developers
Philly digs Digsau. The environmentally sensitive facade-wrappers float nicely above the transparent base. The question is, which corner office to fight over: the one with the mitered glass or the full-length curtain wall?

HN9

The Granary | Photo: Peter Woodall

notThe Granary

2000 Callowhill Street
DAS Architects/Pearl Properties developer
While local cultural institutions and businesses (like Whole Foods) will appreciate the density, the Pearl apartments are clad in a disappointing corrugated metal that cheapens the facade. The ground floor retail is welcome and will hopefully distract the eye from looking upward.

Mitchell and Hilarie Morgan Hall, Temple University | Photo: Peter Woodall

Mitchell and Hilarie Morgan Hall, Temple University | Photo: Peter Woodall

hotMitchell and Hilarie Morgan Hall, Temple University

1600 North Broad Street
MGA Partners/Temple University developer
The density and urban frontage are commendable. The courtyard is open, yet defensible, on its raised plinth. The massing of the circulation and tower blocks reads well, but I’m certain Temple students are mostly looking forward to basking in the sun on the Broad Street steps.

HN2

The Sansom | Photo: Peter Woodall

at allThe Sansom

1605 Sansom Street
DAS Architects/Pearl Properties developer
The paste-up contextuality overlaid by a strangely floating black grid fails to inspire. My recommendation for future residents: have Super Glue at the ready to refasten those brittle brick tiles.

Hilton Homes2 Suites | Photo: Peter Woodall

Hilton Homes2 Suites | Photo: Peter Woodall

DEFINITELYHilton Homes2 Suites

12th and Arch Streets
Cope Linder, Architects/Wurzak Hotel Group & Parkway Corporation developers
One of the highest profile corners in the city is now subject to this awful assemblage. The site once had a proposal for a 29 story W Hotel and is now a paltry eight stories extended stay complex. Then again, we should be thankful for only eight stories of fan coil unit grilles and precast paneling. For shame, for shame.

A self-described Catalyst, Jason Lempieri investigates subversion, history, and collective memory in his work. He designs from the perspective that form follows meaning. He is the founder of the multi-disciplinary architecture and design studio RethinkTANK llc. Currently, he is raising public funds for Gilded Gates, an artfully designed bike rack at Rittenhouse Square endorsed by the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia.



8 Comments


  1. Richard A Miller, AIA

    Finally, architecture criticism I can digest with a double shot of espresso.

    Ditto on the Weiss/Manfredi and the Digsau Projects. We are lucky to have work of that caliber going up in the city.

  2. Every one is an undecorated shoebox, with hard edges, out of proportion with its neighbors and not made from local materials. Garbage.

    • Richard A Miller, AIA

      Actually, the buildings that received positive ratings all work well in their context in terms of both scale and materials. The bad ones, not so well. Perhaps they are all guilty of being modern?
      The challenge for Philadelphia is to build good modern 21st century buildings within our varied context.

      • All aesthetics are subjective, as it were. Each of these structures is decent enough in its urbanity (that is to say, they all meld with the city well). However, it is important to note that the perspective of one aesthete–and that is what a critic is, an aesthete–is not going to be the same as a perspective of another. For example, I don’t agree with several of his assessments, but I make no bones that that’s because I have a different view of what looks nice than he does.

  3. Wither the most controversial of them all:

    http://www.goldtexapartments.com

  4. So, what is ‘stunningly green’ about the Singh Center? A cantilevered wing with windows facing west? Please tell me there’s more ‘green’ in this building than there is in the much-lauded Skirkanich Hall, which is only ‘green’ in the color of its brick.

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