The Found Model For The Rodin Museum

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Most museums push the majority of their collections so deep into climate-controlled storage that they’re rarely (if ever) seen by the general public. But sometimes these crates have been in storage for so long that no one—not even the museum’s directors and curators—knows what’s inside of them.

Such was the case at the Rodin Museum. Set between the Barnes Foundation directly across the street and the Philadelphia Museum of Art further down, the Rodin Museum is a frequently overlooked jewel of a building in Center City Philadelphia. Paul Phillipe Cret, the architect responsible for most of the buildings lining the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, designed it; he also designed the original Barnes Foundation in Merion, Pennsylvania. Like the Barnes, the Rodin Museum houses the collection of one man, Jules Mastbaum, an early film mogul with an obsession for, yes, Rodin. The collection of sculptures, notes, and drawings is actually the largest group of Rodin’s work outside of France.

Read the full article at Architizer here.

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FDR: DIY Urban Renewal By Philadelphia Skateboarders

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Photo: Phil Jackson via “FDR Skatepark: A Visual History”

There has been a shift in recent years in the way cities look at redeveloping the urban environment. Rather than bulldozing neighborhoods to a new future–one usually consisting of parking garages or elevated ramps–cities are now repurposing existing, unused areas. The most famous example of this is the High Line in Manhattan, the unthinkable success story that has spawned numerous schemes all around the world and back again (see New York’s “LowLine”). In Philadelphia, similar efforts are being made at rehabilitating the frontage on the Delaware River, like Race Street Pier, as parks for pedestrian use. But while this repurposing tendency hasn’t always been a hallmark of city planners, it has been, and still is, a defining characteristic of skateboarders.

Read the full article on Architizer here.

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Photo: K. Scott Kreider

Discontented With The Barnes Foundation

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The Barnes Foundation, the recently relocated art museum in Philadelphia, is no stranger to controversy and acrimony. Its move from Lower Merion to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway was a long and litigious journey involving many of Philadelphia’s cultural heavy hitters, including Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell. The intricacies of the plot are too detailed and winding to describe here (see the movie “Art of the Steal” for a good primer on the issues involved), but it’s needless to drag out that point: the move has concluded, and the collection is now housed in a new building by Tsien and Williams.

Read the complete article on the Architizer website here.

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Photos: K. Scott Kreider

Yarn Bombing Rocky And The Philadelphia Museum Of Art

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Photo: Constance Mensh.

To many visitors and tourists to Philadelphia, the steps leading to the east entrance of the Philadelphia Museum of Art are synonymous with the cinematic prize fighter Rocky Balboa.  Sylvester Stallone most likely had no idea the scene would become a lasting cultural touchstone–the run up the stairs was only a small part of Rocky’s workout routine, which also included one armed pushups and using frozen hunks of meat as heavy bags. Yet, it was Rocky’s tread dash and victorious fist pump in the air that still inspires people to recreate the scene themselves.

Rain or shine hundreds of people complete this rite every day.  In 2007 the Museum acknowledged the situation, and in an act of acquiescence to the public, installed a larger than life bronze sculpture depiction of the pugilist at the base of the stairs.  The statue created a second spot for touristic photo opportunities and also saved many people the run up the stairs to prove their love of the fictional boxer. There was no need for exertion since most had come for some type of commemorative photo with Rocky, not the Art Museum.

Read the full article on Architizer here.

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Photo: Conrad Benner.

Abandoned Navy Yard, Philadelphia, PA

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During World War II, the waterfront zones of many American cities were mobilized by the American Naval Fleet for shipbuilding.  The demand was high, as were investments in the infrastructure needed to manufacture ships.  After World War II, demand dropped drastically as the Navy shrunk its fleet. These one-time centers of wartime industry floundered, unequipped to accommodate new ship building technologies. What little demand remained was for nuclear-powered vessels, which had to be built far from metropolitan areas due to the risk of accident. Consequently, many cities were left with vacant and unused commercial properties, typically located in otherwise dense urban fabrics.

The prototypical waterfront redevelopment is Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, which experienced major infrastructural investment followed by a quick drop in demand and eventual abandonment. Baltimore’s story is notable, because the city was the very first to institute a waterfront redevelopment plan, starting in 1959. Fifty years later, the redevelopment of Baltimore’s waterfront is still the standard for successful revitalization of abandoned commercial water front areas. Throughout the United States and Europe, blighted post-industrial urban neighborhoods are being eyed with new interest by developers and politicians. A cornerstone of Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s mayorship, for example, was the institution of Vision 2020, a plan to revitalize 500 miles of New York City waterfront. Yet urban redevelopment is a complicated business, and behind each politician’s “vision plan,” there’s a more complicated narrative about the socio-economic development of a city.

Read the full article at Architizer here.

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Photos: K. Scott Kreider.

Megawords At The Philadelphia Museum Of Art

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There are big questions surrounding the role of the art museum in the digital age. Maintaining relevance in today’s unending stream of information and entertainment is a challenge for cultural institutions whose programs operate on a larger scale. One strategy museums have found success with is the digitization of the museum-going experience itself: podcast tours and interactive websites globalize an otherwise local show. Another strategy is the construction of a new building or addition built by a big-name architect, attracting civic and international attention. Examples of this abound. The most striking is perhaps the MAXXI in Rome, designed by Zaha Hadid, which had its grand opening without a single piece of art on view.

Read the full article at Architizer here.

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Photos: Constance Mensh.

Atlantic City’s Bad Gamble

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More than a year ago, Revel, the last casino to be built in Atlantic City in nine years, opened its doors to the public. At the time, Revel’s future seemed rosy: Its first weekend saw Beyonce’s triumphant return to the stage after giving birth to her daughter Blue Ivy, and revenue forecasts—albeit based on nothing but conjecture—were positive. Even Michelle Obama and her daughters showed up for the opening festivities. In fact, Revel’s appearance on the shore was said to sound the death knell for Atlantic City’s smaller casinos, which had been having problems generating revenue.

Read the full article at The Atlantic Cities here.

I was also invited to partake in a panel discussion on the role of casinos related to modern urban development by HuffPostLive.  We were interrupted by breaking news, but talked for around fifteen minutes.  You can watch the discussion here.

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Photos: K. Scott Kreider.