by Rick Bell FAIA AIANY Executive Director and 2008 CACE Presid
AIA Philadelphia celebrated the ribbon-cutting ceremonial opening of its Center for Architecture on May 28, located at 1218 Arch Street — across from the Pennsylvania Convention Center by Thompson, Ventulett, Stainback and Associates, the winner of a National AIA Award for Regional and Urban Design in 2000. The spiffy, well-lit, and well-ventilated storefront Center opened to the public June 2, setting a new benchmark for architecture centers where design professionals interact with students, visitors, enthusiasts, and civic activists, along with elected, appointed officials. The ceremony and festivities were led by AIA Philadelphia President James Bogrette, AIA, and featured congratulatory remarks by recently appointed Deputy Mayor Andrew Altman, an urban planner who is also the city’s Commerce Director. Altman described how his young son had participated in the educational programs at another AIA Chapter’s Center for Architecture before moving to Philadelphia this year.
The Center’s design was developed by 30 individuals during a two-day charrette open to any Chapter member who wanted to participate. Four schemes were developed, and after consultation with existing tenants a winner was selected. The final design is faithful to the winning scheme. The architect of record, including engineering, was Philadelphia-based KlingStubbins, who donated their services as a charitable contribution to the Center. Certain installation details were then contributed by various volunteers and coordinated by a building committee of board members and the executive director.
The design itself makes the singularly successful AIA Bookstore part of an active streetscape, where it can have the greatest impact — and profitability. Glass windows front and back allow for passers-by to see through the shop into meeting and gallery spaces, able to accommodate large public gatherings and freestanding exhibitions, including the opening show of design award-winning projects. Back-of-the-house office space accommodates both Chapter staff and the Community Design Collaborative, a related organization that provides pre-development services to non-profit and community organizations using volunteer architects and related professionals.
The much-heralded Charter High School for Architecture + Design (CHAD) is also supported by the Center, and CHAD programs will find their way to the Center, according to Component Executive John P. Claypool, AIA, AICP, and Courtnay Tyus, Executive Director of CHAD’s Designing Futures Foundation. Such initiatives are already visible in the new bookstore through the competition-winning bookshelf systems designed and constructed in cooperative teams with contractors, architects, carpenter apprentices, and CHAD students.
Similar to recently opened Centers for Architecture created by AIA Austin, AIA Houston, AIA San Francisco, and the Virginia Society for Architects, AIA Philadelphia will utilize its public gallery and meeting facility to provide partners, public agencies, community organizations, media, individual citizens, and visitors an opportunity to participate and learn about the importance of their physical environment. The Center’s mission declares: “It will raise expectations about the region’s built environment and contribute to improved public policies and advocacy for a high quality living environment in Greater Philadelphia.” Other design centers are in various stages of planning nationwide, including AIA storefronts in Dallas and Raleigh.
Founded in 1869, AIA Philadelphia serves more than 1,700 AIA member registered architects and related professionals, making it one of the largest AIA components in the nation. In addition to providing professional and education support to its members, AIA Philadelphia serves as a resource for the general public, and with its fine new center, will be a public face for the City of Sibling Affection through its programs and exhibitions.
To read more about Philadelphia Center for Architecture, here is an article from The Philadelphia Inquirer‘s architecture critic Inga Saffron published June 6 and titled, “Changing Skyline: Architecture institute finally adds gallery.”