I had never seen anything like North Philly in
Things that I don’t notice now, having been here a year, were jumping out at me then. Camera in hand like a tourist, I was taking pictures of everything in this poor neighborhood. Everything burned into my mind intensely. I had never seen such a place. I could not believe that such beautiful houses were being let to rot away. In SF these buildings would have been prizes, gems, objects of reverence. Here in
I was wondering at the time, where is the outrage that this is happening to people and these houses? Why is no one sweeping in and taking care of these buildings? Where is the help for
Now I know. It’s easy to accept things. But you don’t accept what is happening in
As I have been thinking about this, I realize that there is another side to my story – and that is
What’s my deal anyways? I was in and out of those neighborhoods enough to know the deal. Heck, I bought my second 280z in a neighborhood in
And I did get off at the
Ranch houses don’t look so shocking to an architect as they implode.
Here is one of my concept sketches. I was trying to get away from language of the Victorians and Colonials that so dominate the neighborhood. I was trying to bring forward the Scandinavian substrate that is under it all here (since the 1600's) rather than rely on the default philly colonio-victoriana. I was also thinking of something new without connotation that could be adopted by the people living there - something that would help rebrand existence. Something not branded as poverty.
Are architects shallow for not reacting to poverty until the buildings look like crap? No. Look at it this way, we are the people who think that buildings can save the world. So when we see them falling apart - we see the inverse. We see that the world is falling apart. And we react. We work for the PHA and try to put it back together. Of course things get by us. I missed the grinding poverty in Richmond's ranch houses.
And most architects know that better buildings aren't enough. But it is the part we can help with. A part, hopefully, of a big fix (TBD).