We posted last week about Steve Volk's Philadelphia magazine article about developer Bart Blatstein. As a followup, Curbed reader daveydoo posted a lengthy excerpt from Dan P. Lee's earlier Philly mag piece about Blatstein and how the Piazza came together. What's revealing in that piece is the way that Blatstein learned about architecture from developer Tim McDonald, who persuaded Blatstein to scrap his Italianate ideas and do something more modern. It was McDonald who introduced Blatstein to the architecture firm of Erdy McHenry, and, Lee writes, "now Blatstein’s work in Northern Liberties is widely admired as some of the best, most innovative architecture the city’s seen in years." Blatstein, who was inspired by Louis Kahn, tells Lee, “I am hopeful that this part of the city, that the work we’ve done here, will become an example of the best architecture of this time.”
As much as Philadelphians have a jolly time disparaging the Piazza, it was hailed as an architectural and planning triumph when it was unveiled in 2009. Archinect said: "This may just be the best new (privately owned) public space to be built in the US in many years." Inquirer architecture critic Inga Saffron told the New York Times: “The architecture captures the spirit of the neighborhood — not by literally imitating the style of the surrounding buildings, but by using materials and forms that reflect the neighborhood’s tough, enduring, unsentimental, working-class heritage." In her review of the space for the Inquirer, she called it "authentic" and "pretty wonderful." Erdy McHenry won AIA awards for the buildings.
Has it turned out exactly the way everyone planned? Certainly not. But one stormy day, Curbed photographer Laura Kicey went to take some photos there, and they're a reminder that the space and the architecture can look surprisingly beautiful—especially minus the crowds.
· There Were Zombies in NoLibs Before Bart Came Along [CPHI]
· Bart Blatstein Archives [CPHI]