On Wednesday, DesignPhiladelphia makes its annual return, and this year experience comprises the core of the festival. Between the 9th and 18th October, DesignPhiladelphia will play host to over 100 events from Chess in Rittenhouse Square as a form of architectural engagement to a hush-hush shopping event in a secret location to audio tours of public art and displays of whimsical Victorian taxidermy.
We asked DesignPhiladelphia Director Hilary Jay which event she was looking forward to the most. “They’re all my children. I hate playing favorites over one another. That said the opening kick-off benefit, PopUp Place is going to epitomize this year’s theme EXPERIENCEdesign!” she said. PopUp Place and its after party will take place at the art studio Bahdeebahdu and the former PECO substation respectively, within blocks of each other on North American Street in Kensington.
Following are some of our staff picks for this year’s festival.
Emergence of the Modern Metropolis: Walking Tour
October 10, 12, 15 and 17, 2pm to 4pm.
Meet at: Philadelphia Center for Architecture
1218 Arch Street
$15 for adults; $5 for children under 12. Buy tickets here.
Once called “The Workshop of the World,” Philadelphia’s wealthy industrialists often ploughed their cash back into the city and built architectural marvels. Center for Architecture Coordinator David Bender will take you on a journey which highlights Philadelphia’s manufacturing history, its architectural gems, and how it is adapting and transforming to meet the needs of the 21st Century.
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October 11, 6pm to 8pm.
Philadelphia Center for Architecture
1218 Arch Street
Free event. No Registration required
“What’s next for Philly?” With 20 slides and 20 seconds per slide to answer, that’s the challenge presenters will have to meet in the second annual installment of this event which dares Philadelphians to dream. This year’s event will put public transit, housing visitability, and energy technology in the spotlight. It’s an event that has serious impact. “Last year we heard a ‘crazy’ pitch for Philadelphia to host the 2024 Summer Olympics, raising awareness about the untapped potentials that months later indeed led the city to bid,” coordinators Kathy Lent and Erike de Veyra told us. “This year we hope to once again to generate excitement around turning dreams for Philadelphia into reality”
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Experience the Rail Park Tour
Just above our heads in Center City lies an undisturbed tract of green space which connects Fairmount park to Callowhill and Spring Garden. You can’t stroll along it…yet. But construction is expected to begin sometime next year and here’s your chance to take a gander at the area before the project gets off the ground. Mysterious underground spaces, surprising meadows and million-dollar views of the Philly skyline will all be revealed over the course of this three-mile long, street-level jaunt of the elevated Reading Viaduct and City Branch.
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Designation Celebration: Philadelphia History Museum and Preservation Alliance event.
Fourteen properties were this year added to the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places and it’s all thanks to you, the public. “Philadelphia’s Historic Preservation Ordinance gives everyone the right to nominate a building or site to be added to the Philadelphia Register. The designation process not only allows for public participation, it depends on it,” says Preservation Alliance Director of Advocacy, Ben Leech. The Alliance, in conjunction with the Philadelphia History Museum, is hosting a “Thank You” party for all the people who made the historic designations happen. New sites include the North Philly gym where Smokin’ Joe Frazier trained for “The Fight of The Century” against Muhammed Ali, the Chinatown YMCA with its unmistakable pagoda-influenced façade and the Worrell-Winter House in Frankford which is thought to date back to 1728. Relatedly, stay tuned as Hidden City is partnering with Leech on a “How to Nominate” workshop in November.
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GRAY AREA: Preservation Provocateurs ‘Post-Preservation’
16th October, 6pm to 8pm
This one takes a look at preservation from another angle. Gray Area Philly, an experiment in public dialogue about preservation will bring Architect Shohei Shigematsu (a partner at Rem Koolhaas’ firm OMA) into town to provoke. Shigematsu will present diverse responses to historic preservation in the contemporary city and posit that preservation is ultimately detrimental to urban environments. He will explain these ideas using examples from OMA’s design proposals and built projects as well as the controversial “Cronocaos” exhibition which he co-curated with Rem Koolhaas in 2011.
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On a side note, Gray Area will all reopen Hidden City Festival site Hawthorne Hall for one night (October 11th, 6pm to 9pm, info here). If you missed art collective Rabid Hands’ mind-bogglingly strange and wonderful creation then, then this particular event is a can’t-miss.
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The DesignPhiladelphia Festival runs from October 9th to 18th, but its mission is permanent. “While the festival is only for a short period of time, the Center for Architecture does this work year round, educating people about the power that architecture and design have in our everyday lives—how they impact our experiences, create memories, spark emotions, and establish lasting connections,” says Jay.
For more information including a full calendar of events, visit the DesignPhiladelphia Festival Website HERE.