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Quotables: Museum of the American Revolution Breaks Ground

Photo: Tom Gralish, Renderings: MAR
The Museum of the American Revolution officially broke ground yesterday. The $119M project expected to be completed in 2016. As you can see from the above photo, it was exciting stuff! Robert A. M. Stern's initial design came under heavy scrutiny at the beginning, and then some more upon the proverbial re-do. When it's all said and done, the MAR (as it's called) will exhibit key artifacts that tell the story of the birth of the United States — including one of George Washington's actual military tents, the only known in existence. Beyond the excitement of the groundbreaking of a new museum is what critics simply call uninspired design, and so, we've decided to revisit a few of our favorite quotes about that very topic.

Nathaniel Popkin, founder of Hidden City and the man who got this MAR ball rolling after penning the Declaration of Architectural Independence:

"That the People of Philadelphia, increasingly confident in a vital future for their City, have a right and a duty to demand of the Representatives in the Art Commission and at other levels and areas of Government that they throw off the Reactionary, Ham-Fisted, and Nostalgic design for the Museum and provide new Ideas and new Approaches for the Museum, and that they do so now."Inga Saffron wasn't a fan of the cupola in the original designs:

For me, the telltale sign is the cupola. It's an obvious nod to the one atop Independence Hall. The Independence Visitor Center resorted to the same device in a bid for context. But if you look at the Independence Hall version, you'll see it grows naturally out of the architectural massing, rising up from the outer wings to the gradually telescoping tower. On Stern's museum, the cupola is simply plopped onto a flat roof, as if to say, "Look folks! Revolutionary symbolism."

Nathaniel Popkin is back and spoke with Property about the conservative redesign:

"Yes, the cupola is gone and there's now an entrance on Chestnut Street. In the rendering they even now have the cars going in the proper direction. They removed the canons from the plaza (this isn't 1976). But that's it, really. In fact the building looks all the more like Stern's Bush Presidential Library now. This is still an brick box that might be built anywhere, that doesn't speak to the city around it and that isn't at all inviting."

Property's Liz Spikol on the bland design:

"I' m starting to think that Robert A.M. Stern is the Robert De Niro of architecture, and not just because the two New Yorkers have names that trouble copy editors. It's the professional inconsistency — a disconcerting whiplash between knockout performances and efforts one could charitably term "phoned in."Hidden City's Bradley Maule is downtrodden about more missed oppotunities:

"When it opens in 2016 or whenever, the Museum of the American Revolution will join the ranks of the South Street Bridge and Pennsylvania Convention Center, building on Philadelphia's legacy of missed opportunities."
· Ground is broken for American Revolution museum [The Inquirer]