Skate This!

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Image via.

What makes a great “skate spot”? Smooth surfaces, sweet inclines, and such bonus features like ledges, steps, rails, and transitions help. Now, skateboarders, being a notoriously inventive and industrious bunch, could have fun in any parking lot with a curb. But built environments that push skateboarders to new feats of daring offer more options than just a flat surface to roll on.

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Rest Stop by J. MAYER H.

Modernist architecture, for example, with its embrace of concrete, marble, and granite, has proved a great boon to the sport. Two of the most famous skate spots in history—the Embarcadero in San Francisco and Love Park in Philadelphia—were built as public plazas in the Modernist style. The Embarcadero’s Gonz Gap, created by a gigantic concrete wave, and Love Park’s low granite benches helped transform these spaces into, to paraphrase Le Corbusier, “machines” for skating.

See the full collection of architectural projects I curated for Architizer here.

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Image via.

Discontented With The Barnes Foundation

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Photo: K. Scott Kreider

The Barnes Foundation, the recently relocated art museum in Philadelphia, is no stranger to controversy and acrimony. Its move from Lower Merion to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway was a long and litigious journey involving many of Philadelphia’s cultural heavy hitters, including Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell. The intricacies of the plot are too detailed and winding to describe here (see the movie “Art of the Steal” for a good primer on the issues involved), but it’s needless to drag out that point: the move has concluded, and the collection is now housed in a new building by Tsien and Williams.

Read the complete article on the Architizer website here.

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Haas And Hahn Paint Germantown Avenue In Philadelphia

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Photo: K.Scott Kreider

The dynamics of a band of musicians playing jazz depend heavily on communication, both verbal and nonverbal. All players involved need to listen to and respond in the moment, hanging onto the musical structures of rhythm and melody to bring a group of sounds into a cohesive whole.  The Dutch art duo Haas and Hahn, comprised of Jeroen Koolhaas and Dre Urhahn, have embarked on a mural project that is strikingly similar to the high wire act of jazz improvisation.

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Photos: K.Scott Kreider.

The artists were commissioned by the City of Philadelphia and its Mural Arts Program to paint a section of Germantown Avenue as part of an ongoing revitalization effort targeted at stagnant commercial corridors. Located in the central part of North Philadelphia a few blocks east of Broad Street, the neighborhood is better known for its abandoned houses than its arts scene. The pair began the project a year ago, moving into a tiny white house directly behind the Village of Arts & Humanities.

Read the full article at the Atlantic Cities here.

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Photo: K.Scott Kreider

Paved The Cemetery And Put In A Parking Lot

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The Betsy Ross Bridge in Philadelphia seems like any other. It doesn’t have the grace of the Golden Gate or the history of the Brooklyn Bridge, nor does it draw any acolytes wanting to make the trek across. The structure exists primarily to move people, and this it does well, helping connect Pennsylvania to New Jersey. Most commuters, however, are surely unaware of what the bridge’s foundation is actually built on: a cemetery.

Read the full article at The Atlantic Cities here.

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Photo: K. Scott Kreider

FDR Skatepark: Philadelphia Skateboarders DIY Urban Renewal

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Photo: Phil Jackson via “FDR Skatepark: A Visual History”

There has been a shift in recent years in the way cities look at redeveloping the urban environment. Rather than bulldozing neighborhoods to a new future–one usually consisting of parking garages or elevated ramps–cities are now repurposing existing, unused areas. The most famous example of this is the High Line in Manhattan, the unthinkable success story that has spawned numerous schemes all around the world and back again (see New York’s “LowLine”). In Philadelphia, similar efforts are being made at rehabilitating the frontage on the Delaware River, like Race Street Pier, as parks for pedestrian use. But while this repurposing tendency hasn’t always been a hallmark of city planners, it has been, and still is, a defining characteristic of skateboarders.

Read the full article on Architizer here.

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Photo: K. Scott Kreider

The Hidden Houses Of The Philadelphia Navy Yard

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Photo: K. Scott Kreider

During World War II, the waterfront zones of many American cities were mobilized by the American Naval Fleet for shipbuilding.  The demand was high, as were investments in the infrastructure needed to manufacture ships.  After World War II, demand dropped drastically as the Navy shrunk its fleet. These one-time centers of wartime industry floundered, unequipped to accommodate new ship building technologies. What little demand remained was for nuclear-powered vessels, which had to be built far from metropolitan areas due to the risk of accident. Consequently, many cities were left with vacant and unused commercial properties, typically located in otherwise dense urban fabrics.

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Photo: K. Scott Kreider

The prototypical waterfront redevelopment is Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, which experienced major infrastructural investment followed by a quick drop in demand and eventual abandonment. Baltimore’s story is notable, because the city was the very first to institute a waterfront redevelopment plan, starting in 1959. Fifty years later, the redevelopment of Baltimore’s waterfront is still the standard for successful revitalization of abandoned commercial water front areas. Throughout the United States and Europe, blighted post-industrial urban neighborhoods are being eyed with new interest by developers and politicians. A cornerstone of Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s mayorship, for example, was the institution of Vision 2020, a plan to revitalize 500 miles of New York City waterfront. Yet urban redevelopment is a complicated business, and behind each politician’s “vision plan,” there’s a more complicated narrative about the socio-economic development of a city.

Read the full article at Architizer here.

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Photo: K. Scott Kreider.

The Radical Humanity Of Zoe Strauss

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Photos: K. Scott Kreider

America is struggling through the second worst recession in its history. The first — the Great Depression — brought with it now-iconic images of breadlines, the dustbowl, the Hoover Dam, and the working poor of America. Integral to the visual history of the Great Depression are the photographs of Walker Evans, who documented the rural poor for the Farm Security Administration. Evans’ photographs, published in “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men,” have become iconic images relating to the first Great Depression.

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Photos: K. Scott Kreider

Philadelphia photographer Zoe Strauss cites Evans as one of her heroes and inspirations. Strauss’ mid-career retrospective is ongoing now at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and provides a look at her ten-year photograph project, entitled “95.” Though “95” is expansive, Strauss’ primary subject matter is the working class, focusing on populations that are either forgotten by the general public, or offered meaningless platitudes by politicians. As part of the retrospective, the Museum has partnered with Clear Channel to place more than fifty billboards of Strauss’ photographs throughout Philadelphia.

Read the entire article at The Atlantic Cities here.

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Photos: K. Scott Kreider