Ok, the first question has to be, does Rittenhouse Square's designation as historic also stipulate new construction has to resemble an inanimate cartoon version of Optimus Prime?
We’re sorry. We don’t mean to be negative to start off the new year.
But it is simply not a good looking building. Way too much brick. Not nearly enough glass. Case closed. (It is actually kind of reminiscent of another recent addition to the Philadelphia cityscape, unfortunately.)
Is the lego look in? Seriously. We don't understand. WTF?
Why, of all the buildings to choose from, did they choose the bland Alison Building to inform the design of 10 Rittenhouse? Sure, it is at the building’s base and frames the view of pedestrians from south of Walnut, but shit?! Totally unnecessary.
They surely didn’t have to let it dictate the building’s entire exterior motif, right up to the spacing between windows.
So who is the culprit? Robert A.M. Stern, the architect, or ARCWheeler, the developer??
Well, let’s see. Stern is not known as the most adventurous of architects these days, so a boring design wouldn't be out of question. But he can still yield a pretty mean T-square.
Case in point: Stern, who churns out tower designs pretty much weekly, also designed the Clarendon Back Bay in Boston, a project comparable to 10 Rittenhouse.
The Clarendon, at right, is a 30-some story luxury tower. So is 10 Rittenhouse. The Clarendon is a mixed-use development with more than 400,000 total square feet and boasts more than 100 luxury condominiums on its upper floors. So is 10 Rittenhouse and so does 10 Rittenhouse. The Clarendon has a red brick and limestone exterior. Wow — so does 10 Rittenhouse.
The Clarendon, however, pulls it off without looking like a tragic, post-modern attempt at a early-20th-century skyscraper. (Or a an autonomous robotic organism, e.g. transformer, extraordinaire, depending on who you ask.) Thanks, in large part, to its wealth of large glass windows.
It’s a shame ARCWheeler didn’t request something that looked more like the Clarendon. Or, basically, something that looked more awesome. Philadelphia would definitely be better off.
(After all, it's going to be with us for at least 30 years and the location is kinda premier: "But there is a civic interest, as well as a financial interest. Rittenhouse Square is the closest thing Philadelphia has to a town green, and what goes up on [its perimeter] will have the eyes of the whole city on it.")
It’s like our girl Inga says…
While that's all true enough, Symphony House's defenders operate on the belief that any new construction in Philadelphia is good construction.Word, Inga. Word.
But after a vigorous real estate boom, Philadelphia can't be satisfied anymore just to build new. The city needs to build well, with taste, integrity, creativity, and, whenever possible, real aesthetic ambition. Looks matter, especially as the city comes to depend on tourism for its livelihood.
So, yea, this time we’re going to go ahead and save Ms. Saffron the grief of having to deal with the fallout of calling a spade a spade.
To be clear, 10 Rittenhouse is not bad.
(It has its positives: burying its parking underground; good, ground floor retail; added residential density to Center City — already the third most highly populated downtown in the country; etcetera.)
It’s just not good. Looking, that is.
And it definitely could have been.
10 Rittenhouse Square [ Official Site ]