Here's yet another piece heralding Philly as rising up from its forgotten stodgy and humdrum days of yore: a few weeks ago it was the New York Times Style Section on a quick jaunt to Fishtown, and today it's a trend piece in the Architect's Newspaper about how Philly is "an exciting laboratory for architects".
There's no denying that Philly is home to lots of exciting contemporary architecture: the article mentions the Krishna P. Singh Center for Nanotechnology, which drew rave reviews from archicritics near and far, Sister Cities Park, the new Barnes Building, and still-in-the-works Dilworth Plaza. In the sea of new boxy stucco specials rising in the Graduate Hospital, Point Breeze, Kensington, and Fishtown), impressive contemporary architecture is also gaining ground in Philly. After all, Philly's tallest tower will soon be a Norman Foster building at 18th and Arch.
And while this particular trend piece's focus on the necessity of providing affordable new housing in low-income neighborhoods is both astute and laudable, its picks for what affordable constitutes are somewhat laughable: The Piazza, mentioned as a game-changer in a "low income neighborhood" is, in fact, one of the pricier places to live in the already thoroughly gentrified neighborhood of Northern Liberties. In fact, neither of the "new commercial projects that belie this general rule and may well help create a more equitable future in low-income neighborhoods" mentioned in the article are located in solidly "low income" neighborhoods, unless all of Philadelphia outside of Center City counts as "low income". The Folsom Powerhouse is certainly eco-friendly, and Francisville does still have a significant low-income population, but the majority of the Powerhouse's units are for sale at market rate prices (and in Francisville, market rates keep rising.) Perhaps a look at the nearby Jon Bon Jovi Soul Homes, or Paseo Verde to the north would have provided better examples of truly affordable new construction.
In summary: yes, there is a lot of exciting contemporary architecture in Philly. Don't act so surprised, though! Also, Northern Liberties is not a "low income" neighborhood.
· The City of Designerly Love [The Architect's Newspaper]