#hostilearchitecture 2.0 in Philly’s Center City

Places engineered to deter homeless people become “hostile and uninviting and threatening [to the general public],” argues British artist and hostiledesign.org founder Stuart Semple tells Architectural Digest.  AD writer Elizabeth Wallace explores a rising awareness of hostile design and its impact on “vulnerable groups of people [who] suffer disproportionately when there is a lack of benches, public washrooms, and shelter from the elements.” As an example, Wallace calls to attention the curved metallic benches at Philadelphia’s 8th Street El stop, which some have criticized as hostile because the design doesn’t allow for sitting comfortably in any position other than upright. The benches’ designer Richard Goloveyko has a response to that; he explains that the “interesting, evocative form” took into account homelessness and “defensive stances,” acknowledging that SEPTA  “didn’t want people lingering on the platform for extended periods.”  He also pointed maintenance needs that demand consideration when designing a bustling urban train station. “It’s not a park or an outdoor space. They periodically pressure-wash an entire station. It’s not something you’re going to put a Chesterfield sofa into,” Goloveyko explains. For a station that needs to withstand millions of commuter bottoms over the years, Goloveyko says, the design is well-used, comfortable, and proving inviting to plenty of Philadelphia commuters on a daily basis. 

Meanwhile, the new design of Love Park has raised similar critiques. “While apparently not all the landscaping and street furniture have arrived, one can’t avoid the sense that the park’s emptiness is designed to discourage lingering and certain kinds of patrons, writes Diana Lind for the Philadelphia Citizen.  She points to stone benches that “look just comfortable enough to eat a quick food truck lunch” and unshaded green lawns.” It’s a similar critique that’s been lodged against nearby Dilworth Park, accessorized with small, hard plastic chairs and little protection from the sun, begging the question: Is Center City’s reigning public space design trend of corporate-friendly minimalism just #hostilearchitecture  playing dress up?

South Philly refinery bankruptcy plan approved by federal court

A federal bankruptcy court on Monday approved a plan for Philadelphia Energy Solutions (PES), the largest refiner on the East Coast, to exit bankruptcy after creditors including the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the federal government withdrew their objections, StateImpact PA’s Jon Hurdle reports. The deal also restructures debt obligations, provides for $260 million of new capital, and includes a plan for PES to retire 138 million renewable fuel credits (known as RINs) that it owes to the EPA. PES calls the court confirmation a “step in the right direction,” but has since set its sights on reforming the government’s Renewable Fuels Standard mechanism. Environmental advocates have a different take, questioning the legality of the EPA’s exemption of PES; The “EPA’s disregard for compliance with environmental regulations sets a dangerous precedent for other refineries that purchase RINs instead of producing renewable fuel,” Clean Air Council’s Joe Minott cautioned. In addition to keeping the refinery’s lights on and preserving some 1,100 jobs, Kleinman Center for Energy Policy analyst Christina Simeone says that “the Commonwealth and the federal government withdrew their objections to the company’s restructuring plan on the condition that their claims for back taxes would not be eliminated.” The terms, Simeone reasons, “probably reflects pressure from all the creditors to keep the business going if at all possible.”

Precious Places Community History Project comes to Chinatown

The Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation (PCDC) will be conceptualizing, shooting, and editing an 8-minute documentary about the neighborhood’s struggle for community space as part of the Scribe Video Center’s Precious Places Community History Project 2018. The documentary will be screened at a local film festival and air on PhillyCam. Want to be a part of this? PCDC is seeking film interns now to interview Chinatown community members, participate in Scribe workshops, film, and edit the documentary. Email Ailin Cao at acao@chinatown-pcdc.org for more information.  

 

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