Monday, August 6, 2012

More Philadelphia...Naval Shipyard

Philadelphia is a wonderful colonial city that grew and, as you saw from the prior blog, has a new modern face.  When you walk the neighborhoods you face the reality of the varying styles of small to luxury row houses and historic to modern skyscrapers.  Depending on neighborhood you can see a wonderful assortment of styles and devotion to the Federal/Colonial idiom.  

Some of the more famous buildings are classical reproductions of Beaux Arts styling straight from  Paris.  Philadelphians are an odd lot and depending who you talk to you can get a wonderful sense of regional accents and local pride.  Many insist that Philadelphia is very much like Paris because of its greatest Boulevard:  The Benjamin Franklin Parkway.  This great boulevard  was designed in the 1930's by French Jacques Greber and Paul Cret who created a modern landscape and urban plan for the city cutting  a diagonal swath across the old Quaker grid.  

The city built its cultural institutions along the Parkway.  Among these is the  Rodin Museum with an extensive collection of bronzes  most famous includes the Thinker above and the Gates of Hell behind the scaffolding below undergoing cleaning.  The whole museum has had a face lift as it sits across the street from the new Barnes Museum.   

Lavender Ringed reflecting pond of Rodin Courtyard

In another corner of the city, a project that was conceived while I was a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania is in full swing.  The Philadelphia Shipyard dating from revolutionary times is a huge swath of land.  As students we did comparison studies and placed all of Rome and other European capitals  within its boundaries to demonstrate how large it is.  This once derelict and rusting heap of naval technology has been undergoing a transformation into a Corporate park with phases for housing just beginning.  

One of the earliest pioneers into the Shipyard was the firm of Urban Outfitters which strangely was once a single outlet store also at U of P catering to students.  The firm now consists 400 stores represented by five brands including Anthropologie.

Outdoor benches anchored by the broken asphalt, no doubt removed when making the plantings.
The corporate campus consists of approximately a dozen buildings that have been restored where the entire corporation designs and manages the empire.  They have taken a wonderful industrial approach to design based in part on their own corporate product signature.  The following are some examples what they have done.  We went to visit after my friend Vori who designs stores was working in another venture in a neighboring part of this Shipyard City.

The campus is so extensive that bikes are available to use to get around

Anchored garden letters spell URBAN in old dry dock used to build ships like USS Forestall aircraft carrier mothballed into part of Shipyard still in Naval control
Old industrial building hall serves as restaurant overlooking USS Forestall and Kitty Hawk
In another part a Cafe serves food and corporate teams sit in meetings
The chiller plant that provides heating and air conditioning to the complex has a gym on its upper deck.
Once acid baths to clean ship and submarine propellers now house coi ponds along the central hall

Following a serene Asian theme tree trunk slabs held together by metal strapping serve as benches in front of tree bamboo interior forest
New pop art graphics with ship ropes and anchor chains serve as interior sculptures

My friend Vori arranged for me to stay in his ground floor apartment which resembles a stateroom on a luxury liner.  He has decorated with ship motifs and art deco appointments.  Limo enjoyed darting after his cat and running up and down stairs once again.  It has been wonderful staying there and catching up with Philadelphia and friends but it was time to move on to more places and adventure.  Happy Gardening.

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