Releases: Expanded View
Philly's More Original: Architectural And Design Weekend
Three Days, Three Centuries Of Artistic Inspiration
Laid out into a neat grid by city planner William Penn, Philadelphia naturally lends itself to smart design. Visitors can wander from the glittering Avenue of the Arts to the workaday Italian Market and from the cozy cobblestone streets of Old City to the industrial and hip sidewalks of Northern Liberties. Two hundred-year-old buildings mingle with modernist structures. Huge warehouses are reborn as chic lofts. Invention and reinvention are key. This easy itinerary, available at www.gophila.com, offers a glimpse of Philadelphia’s finest design—but feel free to stray to wherever your eyes may lead you.
LOCATION: Philadelphia’s neighborhoods
TRANSPORTATION: Feet, public transportation, taxi
TIME: A weekend or any two days
SUMMARY: A tour of Philadelphia’s preeminent architectural sites, with stops along the way to delve into design centers and to meet designers
HIGHLIGHTS: Philadelphia Museum of Art’s new Ruth and Raymond G. Perelman building, historic Old City’s brand new shopping, gritty design in South Philly and edgy invention in Northern Liberties
There are so many architecturally stunning hotels in Philadelphia from which design fans can choose to stay or simply admire. Check out The Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Philadelphia, a mammoth marble four-star property housed in Broad Street’s landmark Girard/Mellon Bank building, which features an amazing sunlit rotunda. Or unpack your bags at the handsome, urban Loews Philadelphia Hotel, located in the nation’s first Modernist skyscraper. Also a former bank, this circa-1932 structure oozes Deco luxuries: granite, glass, exotic woods and Cartier wall clocks (and a slightly newer heated lap pool).
But first, fuel up. You could stop at any number of the city’s independently run java spots, but this morning, get your kicks in the sleek café at the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s brand-new (opened September 15, 2007) Ruth and Raymond G. Perelman Building. Across the street from the larger museum, this 1927 annex is transformed from its Deco roots and houses the museum’s new user-friendly library; archives; center for prints, drawings and photographs; the costumes and textiles collection; and “Collab,” a superb assemblage of modern and contemporary design. You’ll want to stop and ogle pivotal designs by Jacques-Emile Ruhlmann, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Marcel Breuer, George Nelson and husband-and-wife team Charles and Ray Eames.
When you’re ready for lunch, take a quick cab ride past the 11 sculptures of Philadelphia-born Alexander Calder along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, then around the ornate, Second Empire-style City Hall (feel free to drop in for a ride up into the building’s tower, the best bird’s-eye view in town), to Old City.
Stop for a bite at Fork, Etc., the café portion of the neighborhood’s favorite restaurant Fork. Find great homemade soups, pressed sandwiches and international salads to nosh while catching up on design news in the edgy shelter magazines hanging from the café’s walls.
When you’re finished, cross the street to step into the all-new, 10,000-square-foot location of Foster’s Homeware to feed more retail-oriented design urges. Outfitted with a complete, state-of-the-art in-store kitchen, Foster’s stocks the latest in home décor, from utilitarian Chilewich placemats to witty “Knock Off” bowling pin lamps by local designer Josh Owen to pretty wall decals—all displayed both along the shop’s aisles and inside the in-store “apartment.”
Now you’re perfectly positioned to explore Philadelphia’s iconic blend of old-meets-new. Head around the corner and up 3rd Street to discover the latest shelter shops, art galleries and clothing boutiques. Stop by Vagabond boutique to check out the latest from co-owning clothing designers Megan Murphy (geometric dresses) and Mary Clark (cutting-edge knit sweaters).
Cross the street to bahdeebahdu, a gallery of the remarkable interior designs of RJ Thornburg combined with the truly amazing light sculptures that artist Warren Muller creates out of found objects. Next, drop by Minima, where super-stylish owner Eugenie Perret oversees a shiny white gallery of mini Panton chairs, velvet-flocked wallpaper, Marcel Wanders’ knotted rouge seats, Jasper Morrison’s Lotus tables and all-things Phillipe Starck and fabulous.
Farther up, find classic Eames, Knoll and other covetable mid-century furnishings at fun-to-explore Mode Moderne, a clearinghouse for hard-to-find pieces with a flea market feel (but boutique price tags). Fashion fiends will also want to wander into the industrial-chic new location of Sugarcube, home to the latest creations of the super-smallest designers for men and women.
Still ready for more? Make your way up 2nd Street for a stroll along Elfreth’s Alley, the oldest continuously inhabited street in America. The narrow cobblestone block is home to 200-plus-year-old dwellings that originally belonged to artisans and tradespeople and now belong to residents who don’t mind living in tiny homes.
At Market Street, turn one more corner to pop into Smak Parlour, the girlish boutique belonging to Drexel grads Katie Loftus and Abby Kessler, a truly dynamic pair of designers who create every last three-quarter sleeve jacket and stretchy T-shirt in their all-pink shop.
There are plenty of options when it comes time for dinner. You can have an extremely modern dinner at Morimoto, the Iron Chef’s restaurant, where a stunning organic, neon-lit interior design by Karim Rashid meets a truly innovative menu of Chilean sea bass with black bean sauce, ginger and hot oil, as well as tofu mixed right at your table. Or hop over instead to the mod—think Japanese animation on a big flat screen—Zento, a BYOB where Morimoto alum Gunawan Wibisono has been earning a ton of local props for his talent with rice and raw fish.
Ready more? Stroll through Society Hill to ogle the oddly seamless mix of Federalist, Georgian and modern architecture, dominated by I.M. Pei’s hilltop 1963 Society Hill Towers apartments.
There’s no better place to get a feel for real Philly than the decidedly transformed Italian Market area. But first fuel up on fair-trade coffee at the nearby art-filled Chapterhouse, or indulge in airy pancakes, oversize frittatas and coffee served in stainless steel mugs at the sunny Morning Glory Diner, where chances are, your server is a designer in his or her own right.
Next, a leisurely stroll down 9th Street’s Italian Market should give you a taste of the city’s vibrant diversity. If you make it as far as Federal Street, you won’t be able to miss the over-the-top Doo Wop lights of famously dueling cheesesteak vendors Geno’s Steaks and Pat’s King of Steaks.
Spend the rest of the afternoon hitting some major spots: Wander into Rafael Vinoly’s grand Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, the stunning home of the Philadelphia Orchestra since 2001. Head a few blocks north to the absolutely elegant museum hallways of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts to discover Peale family paintings amid Frank Furness’ architecture, just like Walt Whitman did back in his day. Or explore the outstanding reading assortment (and lovely home adornments) at the AIA Bookstore, run by the American Institute of Architects.
If you’re in the mood for something edgier, head up to Northern Liberties to find the latest little handmade objets d’art at Art Star craft gallery; Arsenal, a gallery-turned-clothing shop; and Closet Fever, combination hair salon/designer hangout.
For a lovely, low-key but high-design dinner of tapas, try Bar Ferdinand, owned (and created) by local boy-wonder designer Owen Kamihira. Here, surrounded by floor-to-ceiling mosaics and a candle-filled chandelier, sample affordably chic petite dishes featuring Serrano ham, Mahon cheese, date and bacon empanadas, skirt steak with truffled fried eggs and octopus with roasted tomatoes, arugula and peppercorn mashed potatoes, along with an all-Spanish wine list featuring a $2 wine of the week.
Still itching to see more? Savor an elegant Sunday brunch at Rae, chef Daniel Stern’s avant-guard eatery tucked inside the spectacular, less-than-year-old Cira Centre. Philadelphia’s DAS Architects designed the expansive and light-filled space. Still, the prettiest thing here is Stern’s fare, which includes a two-pound Maine lobster, chocolate French toast, do-it-yourself omelets and a Bloody Mary and champagne-juice cocktail bar.
Architecture And Design In Philadelphia
Loews Philadelphia Hotel
1200 Market Street
(215) 627-1200, www.loewshotels.com
The Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Philadelphia
10 S. Broad Street (Avenue of the Arts)
(215) 523-8000, www.ritzcarlton.com
Broad & Market Streets
(215) 686-2840, www.phila.gov
Between Arch & Race and 2nd & Front Streets
(215) 574-0560, www.elfrethsalley.org
9th Street from Wharton to Fitzwater Streets
Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts
260 S. Broad Street (Avenue of the Arts)
(215) 790-5800, www.kimmelcenter.org
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
118 N. Broad Street
(215) 972-7600, www.pafa.org
Ruth and Raymond G. Perelman Building, Philadelphia Museum of Art
Fairmount & Pennsylvania Avenues
(215) 763-8100, www.philamuseum.org
Society Hill Towers
210 Locust Street
(215) 923-4221, www.societyhilltowers.com
Restaurants & Cafes:
1030 N. 2nd Street
(215) 923-1313, www.barferdinand.com
620 S. 9th Street
(215) 238-2626, www.chapterhousecafe.org
308 Market Street
(215) 625-9425, www.forkrestaurant.com
1219 S. 9th Street
(215) 389-0659, www.genossteaks.com
723 Chestnut Street
(215) 413-9070, www.morimotorestaurant.com
Morning Glory Diner
735 S. 10th Street
(215) 413-3999, www.morningglorydiner.com
Pat’s King of Steaks
1237 E. Passyunk Avenue
(215) 468-1546, www.patskingofsteaks.com
2929 Arch Street
(215) 922-3839, www.raerestaurant.com
138 Chestnut Street
(215) 925-9998, www.zentocontemporary.com
Shops & Galleries:
117 S. 17th Street
(215) 569-3188, www.aiabookstore.com
623 N. 2nd Street
(215) 627-3462, www.arsenalphilly.com
1030 N. 2nd Street, Suite 310
(215) 238-1557, www.artstarphilly.com
309 Cherry Street
(215) 627-5002, www.bahdeebahdu.com
707 N. 2nd Street
(215) 627-4600, www.closetfever.com
399 Market Street
(267) 671-0588, www.shopfosters.com
118 N. 3rd Street
(215) 922-2002, www.minima.us
159 N. 3rd Street
(215) 627-0299, www.modemoderne.com
219 Market Street
(215) 625-4551, www.smakparlour.com
124 N. 3rd Street
(215) 238-0825, www.sugarcube.us
37 N. 3rd Street
(267) 671-0737, www.vagabondboutique.com
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- Caroline Bean, (215) 599-7433
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