Saturday, January 05, 2008

Say Hello to the Magnanimous Symphony House II, Um, We Mean, 10 Rittenhouse Square

10 Rittenhouse Square vs. Optimus PrimeSpeaking of Philadelphia’s propensity for red brick, does anyone mind if we pause for a moment to take a look at 10 Rittenhouse Square? You know, the mixed-use development at 18th and Sansom… The one that is just now peaking its head above ground level after construction was completed on the underground parking garage.

No? Super.

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.

Robert A.M. Stern's The Clarendon Back Bay BostonThe 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.

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.
Word, Inga. Word.

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.

Related:
10 Rittenhouse Square [ Official Site ]

4 comments:

Degenerate said...

This is horrific! I can't understand why it's so hard to build in a nice, modern, aesthetically pleasing, and perhaps even avante garde manner. Why, oh why, is this city so stuck in historicism??

Anonymous said...

stop being a snob and wait till its built. They always look different than the renderings anyway

Team Illadelph said...

Woa. Totally not being snobby homes. It's simply an incredibly underwhelming design. And if the rendering can't make it look cool, then it definitely has no chance (zero) of looking cool after it's built.

Why so much fucking brick? It borders on the absurd. Granted, it's not as garish as the Symphony House, but still.

The two quotes from Inga basically say it all:

"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." [source]

And

“While that's all true enough, Symphony House's defenders operate on the belief that any new construction in Philadelphia is good construction.

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." [source]

Now contrast 10 Rittenhouse with the fairly hot (read modern) design Castleway is cooking up for the former PPA lot at 19th and Walnut and you have our basic complaint with 10 Rittenhouse: the design is incredibly blah.

Philatonian said...

I'm so glad someone finally took a shot at this building. It's not "ugly" necessarily, just bland. But that's what I thought of Symphony House before they started putting up the snap-on pink walls. Now it's just plain fugly. My biggest beef with it however, is how it rises up from Sansom Street hovering over two existing buildings to lay claim as 10 "Rittenhouse Square". The renderings are deceiving. Not rising from Walnut Street, once it's built it's not going to appear to even be on the square.