That might be pushing it (after all, the National Constitution Center is pretty fine), but the new glass-fronted café sure looks like an immediate star in its freshly spruced-up spot on the east side of the Mall between Market and Arch Streets.
Not only is the Independence Mall landscaping finally complete, the Mall is also finally approaching being used as the awesome public green space it was intended to be. (For both residents and visitors, no less.)
And now they have this very cool-looking alfresco café to add even more vibrancy and character to the Mall. (And, perhaps, to even make it a destination for people other than tourists, e.g. nearby office workers looking for a casual alfresco lunch.)
Independence Al Fresco, as the café is officially called by the welcoming folks at the IVC, is a simple, one-story structure with a folding glass-window façade. In the photo above, the windows are closed. In the photo below, they’re open.
The frame’s building material can almost make it look like a modern wood cabin, but the material is actually distressed metal with an apparently deliberate rust finish.
The result is an unobtrusively modern design that not only looks very good, but also works with the surrounding historic architecture.
Honestly, we’re fairly surprised the Park Service didn’t go with a mini-version of the IVC, red brick and all.
Especially when compared to the much more traditional design of the Center City District "Cret Café" currently under construction at 16th and the Parkway (rendering below - bottom). Not knocking it — just sayin' Philadelphia has a well-documented propensity to build things for the last century rather than the current one. The CCD Cret Café will be a good addition to the Parkway, but its design is clearly a throwback. So it's all the more cool to see a modern café design go up on Independence Mall (of all places) and to actually work contextually with its environs.
Well done, IVC and National Park Service. Franklin Square and Once Upon A Nation, please take note.
Now if only Independence Al Fresco had a mean milkshake machine…
Note: No word on the architect. A request for comment to the IVC has to date been unanswered.
UPDATE: Architect is Erdy McHenry Architecture — they are good.
Independence Al Fresco [ Independence Visitor Center - Official Site ]
[ Top Photo via Flickr user saturdave ]