Friday, April 26, 2013

Location Three: Glorifying the "Sports Complex"

Philadelphia has always been a strong-willed city known for its rugged, blue-collar work ethic and never-say-die attitude. If you were to break down the city into smaller pieces, South Philadelphia is the core of that fighting spirit. It was built on the backbone of hard-nosed workers and immortalized by the iron chin of Rocky Balboa.

Throughout the history of this city, the one release that its residents have always enjoyed is sporting events. Although their passion is often misunderstood and misrepresented in the national media, there is no denying that Philadelphians are a passionate bunch when it comes to their home team. As such, it would be borderline lunacy to glorify any three buildings other than those that best personify South Philadelphia, as well as the city as a whole: Citizens Bank Park, Lincoln Financial Field, and the Wells Fargo Center—perhaps better known locally as simply “the sports complex.”

Citizens Bank Park, located at One Citizens Bank Way in South Philadelphia, is the youngest of the three stadiums, officially opening its doors to rowdy Philadelphia Phillies fans for the first time on April 3, 2004 after breaking ground on June 28, 2002. The ballpark was designed by former Air Force pilot and Pennsylvania State University graduate Stanley Cole, who also served as the chief engineer. He had made a name for himself early in his architectural career by helping to design a piece of the United Nations headquarters.1 Populous, an architectural firm specializing in sporting designs, also contributed to the project, which cost $458 million.2

Citizens Bank Park
Photo Credit: ESPN

TripAdvisor recently named Citizens Bank Park the sixth best ballpark in all of baseball, citing its lowered playing surface (23 feet below street level), which combined with its bowl-style seating, helps to create an epic skyline of downtown Philadelphia.3

More than a full year after Citizens Bank Park broke ground, Lincoln Financial Field, located at 1020 Pattison Avenue in South Philadelphia, opened its doors to fans of the Philadelphia Eagles, and it has since hosted a number of sporting events, including the city's professional soccer team—the Philadelphia Union—for one season in 2010, as well as Temple University's football program, from 2003 to the present.

Unlike their baseball neighbors, the football group's ownership did not name a single architect as the head of the project. Instead, the title of “project manager” belonged to KUD International4, with architectural firms NBBJ and Agoos Lovera Architects also contributing to the stadium's design.5 The project cost $512 million.

Lincoln Financial Field with wind turbines.
Photo Credit:

Lincoln Financial Field has been marred with a number of controversies, the most serious of which was a 2006 report that one of the bridges connecting the upper levels of the stadium had been swaying. However, following an investigation, no issues were reported.6

Lincoln Financial Field also harbored a dubious trait that its predecessor, Veterans Stadium, had earned—a jail inside of the stadium. The four cells were done away with in 2005, however, as the unruly behavior seen in the infamous “700 level” of Veterans Stadium did not carry over into the Eagles' new home.7

Outside of those minor concerns, Lincoln Financial Field has consistently drawn rave reviews. Prior to the 2013 season, NESN named the stadium the ninth best in all of football.8 The Eagles have also drawn praise for their commitment to green energy. This offseason, the organization installed 11,000 solar panels to accompany their previously existing 14 wind turbines.9 In this way, the Eagles have been truly revolutionary, as far as stadiums are concerned.

Lincoln Financial Field is also the only stadium on the list to have a big role in a major Hollywood film, as parts of David O. Russell's Silver Linings Playbook was filmed on location.10 As one could assume, its function was simple: The home of the Philadelphia Eagles.

The oldest of the trio is now called the Wells Fargo Center and is located at 3601 South Broad Street, but it has also been called a myriad of other names, including the CoreStates Center (1996-98), First Union Center (1998-2003), and Wachovia Center (2003-10).

The project was led by architectural firm Ellerbe Beckett, which has been functional for more than a century and has designed sports venues (as well as other buildings) across the United States. Opened on August 12, 1996, the arena cost $210 million, which roughly translates to $307 million in 2013 dollars—both of which are relatively cheap when compared against other venues.

Wells Fargo Center
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

While the Wells Fargo Center is home to four of the city's sports teams; the Philadelphia 76ers, Philadelphia Flyers, Philadelphia Wings, and Philadelphia Soul; the arena has also gained a reputation for hosting a number of concerts and other events, including the World Wrestling Entertainment's Wrestlemania XV, American Idol auditions, and several versions of the X-Games.

While these three arenas do not have a lengthy history in film, it is interesting to compare how sporting venues are portrayed. For example, the relationship between the passion of Boston Red Sox fans and Fenway Stadium as the setting for Bobby and Peter Farrelly's Fever Pitch.

Sports are interesting, but in Philadelphia, sports are more than just that. These venues represent the fighting spirit of Philadelphia. Some of this city's most iconic and treasured moments involve victory in front of their “homes,” like the Phillies marching down Broad Street to arrive in front of Citizens Bank Park in 2008, or the Flyers posing in front of the now-demolished Spectrum twice in the mid-1970s.

These three buildings aren't just “buildings.” They are treasured pieces of life here in South Philadelphia. If you were to poll 10 of the city's residents on the street about the most important buildings in Philadelphia, nine would answer with one of the stadiums.

Places like City Hall and the Art Museum, for example, are important and interesting, but neither is intertwined as closely to the heart of Philadelphians as the sports complex. It's the rugged, blue-collar work ethic that leaves those three buildings rocking when a game is happening.

That's why it would be asinine to glorify any other set of buildings in Philadelphia. None are as synonymous with the people as those contained in the beloved “sports complex.”

Works Cited

1Cook, Bonnie L.. "Stanley M. Cole, 89, architect of ballpark -" Featured Articles from phillies-charities (accessed April 26, 2013).
2Cook, Bonnie L.. "Stanley M. Cole, 89, architect of ballpark -" Featured Articles from phillies-charities (accessed April 26, 2013).
3“TripAdvisor Announces America's Top 10 Ballparks| Reuters." Business & Financial News, Breaking US & International News | baseball-idUSnPnMM80359+160+PRN20130321 (accessed April 26, 2013).
4"Lincoln Financial Field." Street and Smith's Sports Business Journal. (accessed April 26, 2013).
5"Lincoln Financial Field." Street and Smith's Sports Business Journal. Field.aspx?hl=%22club%20seats%22&sc=0 (accessed April 26, 2013).
6kofsky. "Philadelphia Will Do » Good Lateral Vibrations." Philadelphia Will Do » A blog about the funniest city on earth published by Philadelphia Weekly.. (accessed April 26, 2013).
7"Sports Stadiums." Sports Stadiums. (accessed April 26, 2013).
8"Lucas Oil Stadium, Cowboys Stadium Highlight Top 10 Best NFL Stadiums |  |" | Sports News | Red Sox, Bruins, Patriots, Celtics. (accessed April 26, 2013).
9Bauers, Sandy. "Philadelphia Eagles green: Lincoln Financial Field generating energy with solar panels, turbines -" Featured Articles from (accessed April 26, 2013).
10"Movies Filmed At Lincoln Financial Field." Movie Maps. (accessed April 26, 2013).

Monday, March 25, 2013

Location Two: Robert Indiana's LOVE Sculpture

One of the most iconic images the city of Philadelphia has to offer is the iconic LOVE sculpture, with its bold red letters and tilted “O,” located in Center City's JFK Plaza. What better way to make a statement in the “City of Brotherly Love” than blowing up a sculpture that shares part of its namesake?

Contrary to popular belief, Philadelphia's LOVE sculpture is not the original. The original sculpture of the same title was designed by American artist Robert Indiana as a Christmas card for the Museum of Modern Art and has been on display at the Indianapolis Museum of Art since 1970.

The plaza, originally designed to cover an underground parking lot, was without art for a few years after its completion in 1965. It was dedicated to President John F. Kennedy in 1967 and received its LOVE sculpture in 1976 as part of the celebration of the United States' bicentennial.

Interestingly enough, the sculpture was never intended to remain in the plaza and was removed two years later in 1978. Philadelphia had grown attached to the sculpture, however, and there was an outcry for its return.1 (Photo of Urban Archives article in citations) 

JFK Plaza without its tell-tale sculpture after its removal in 1978, courtesy of Temple University Urban Archives.

The city finally received its wish when the Chairman of the Philadelphia Art Commission, F. Eugene Dixon Jr., purchased the sculpture and personally returned it to the plaza, where it has remained since.2

Since its installation in Philadelphia, Indiana's LOVE has grown into a global sensation. In an interview with international art website ArtInfo, the talented Indiana proclaimed himself to be a painter first and a sculptor second.3 This is somewhat surprising, considering the fact that there are 39 known sculptures scattered across three continents—the United States, Europe, and Asia—as well as two sculptures in additional languages—Italian and Hebrew.

Even if he considers himself to be a painter first and foremost, the 84-year-old Indiana confessed in that same interview that it is his goal to erect a LOVE sculpture in every city in the United States.4

In Philadelphia, Indiana's LOVE has never been anything short of a smashing success. It has always been the main draw for JFK Plaza, otherwise known as a dank space covering an underground parking garage that is a popular hangout for skateboarders en masse.

The sculpture has all but taken over the plaza. In fact, throughout most of the city, the area is more commonly referred to as “Love Park,” as opposed to its official name, JFK Plaza. The general consensus among locals and tourists alike is that the LOVE sculpture is a part of Philadelphia and a must-visit. Using the popular review website Yelp, it is difficult to find a negative review.5

Philadelphia's LOVE sculpture after being re-installed, courtesy of Temple University's Urban Archives.

Philadelphia's LOVE sculpture has not received an overly abundant amount of exposure in major feature films, but has had some interesting “screen time,” including the video game Tony Hawk's Pro Skater II.6

It has certainly never been exposed to film in a way that public art is featured in Fight Club. In that film, public art is used to make a statement; send a message. In my experience, public art in films is almost never used to destroy, but to build up.

Though they are sculptures on a much grander stage, pieces like the Statue of Liberty and William Penn are placed in films because they are recognizable. They are used to establish location and work because of their popularity and recognition. “Lady Liberty” is a symbol of New York, grandeur, and freedom. Penn is synonymous with Philadelphia.

When public art is shown in films, this is the way that it is primarily used. That is what makes David Fincher's use of public art in Fight Club so interesting. He doesn't just go against the book. He basically throws it out the window.

I would follow in Fincher's footsteps. Philadelphia's LOVE sculpture is so engraved in its history that if you wanted to make a statement, this is the way that it would happen. It would strike people deep within their core emotionally, not only because of the obvious ramifications, but because of the metaphorical implications as well.

Destroying a sculpture that literally says “love” in the “City of Brotherly Love” would be a very powerful metaphor. It could mean a loss of life or passion. It could show that something is missing or fleeting from the city. The truth is that this would be an action that could be interpreted in and endless number of ways, dependent upon a personal attachment.

Indiana's LOVE sculpture is known around the world, but perhaps most meaningful in the city of Philadelphia. If I were looking to make a statement, this would be the sculpture that had to go.


Works Cited
1 Unknown (Philadelphia), "LOVE is Coming Back, But It's a Lot Cheaper," April 29, 1978.
2 Unknown (Philadelphia), "LOVE is Coming Back, But It's a Lot Cheaper," April 29, 1978.
3 Halperin, Julia. "Pop Art Icon Robert Indiana Talks Hope, Love, and Shepard Fairey | Artinfo." Artinfo | The Premier Global Online Destination for Art and Culture. (accessed March 26, 2013).
4 Halperin, Julia. "Pop Art Icon Robert Indiana Talks Hope, Love, and Shepard Fairey | Artinfo." Artinfo | The Premier Global Online Destination for Art and Culture. (accessed March 26, 2013).
5 "LOVE Park Frequently Asked Questions." (accessed March 26, 2013).
6 "Love Park." Yelp. (accessed March 23, 2013).

Urban Archives Article

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Location One: South Philadelphia's Broadway Theatre

       When the Broadway Theatre opened on 2042 S. Broad St. in South Philadelphia in 1913, it quickly became one of the greatest entertainment attractions that part of the city had to offer. Long before the sports complex was a twinkle in the town's eye, the Broadway Theatre housed 2,183 individuals and hosted an array of events.1

      Designed by well known theater architect Albert E. Westover, the Broadway Theatre's white brick and terra cotta facade gave it a look of grandeur and quality, while speaking to the acts housed inside.2

Broadway Theatre, via Temple University Library's Urban Archives

       That is right. The Broadway Theatre first opened as a vaudeville theater, but was eventually converted into a movie theater as the technology became popular. Though it contained just a single screen, South Philadelphia residents flocked to the theater to catch some of the most popular films of all-time.3

      Though the Broadway Theatre showed no genre of film in particular, it did an excellent job of bringing the most popular films to the “big screen.”

      Outside of films, the Broadway Theatre quickly became known for its elegant Halloween parties. The promotion, first arranged by manager Dominic Lucente, nicknamed the “Mayor of South Philadelphia” because of his popularity, was a costume party that offered gifts and prizes for children and served as one of the theater's best promotional events.4

      As other theaters grew and the sports complex became a realistic endeavor in South Philadelphia, however, the Broadway Theatre's popularity began to fade and one of the greatest entertainment attractions in the city's history was demolished in 1971.5 A Walgreens parking lot now stands in its place.
Works Cited
1 ) "Broadway Theatre -- Philadelphia Architects and Buildings." Philadelphia Architects and Buildings. (accessed February 18, 2013).
2 )"Broadway Theatre -- Philadelphia Architects and Buildings." Philadelphia Architects and Buildings. (accessed February 18, 2013).
3 ) Evans, Shawn. "Neighborhood Movie Theaters." The Philly History Blog. theaters/ (accessed February 17, 2013).
4 ) "Comments about Broadway Theater in Philadelphia, PA - Cinema Treasures." Cinema Treasures. (accessed February 18, 2013).
5 ) "Broadway Theatre -- Philadelphia Architects and Buildings." Philadelphia Architects and Buildings. (accessed February 18, 2013).