Frank Weise and the Redevelopment of Philadelphia

Camac Village

Life History

 

Philadelphia Redevelopment

 

Camac Village

...In a career that spanned more than 50 years, Mr. Weise designed dozens of modernist houses throughout Philadelphia's oldest neighborhoods, and his designs were known for their curved surfaces, prompting the architect Andrew Blenda to compare Mr Weise's work to that of the Finnish modernist Alvar Alto....

The Associated Press, NY Times, 2003

 

Weise made all efforts to make his creations fit in with their surroundings. His early design ideas had been influenced by Louis Kahn while after his masters at Harvard he got influenced by contemporaries like Walter Gropius of the Bauhaus School of thought.

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Camac Village: Site Plan: Source: The Architectural Archives

   

......................................................................Camac Street Floor Plans: Source: http://www.brynmawr.edu/iconog/washw/persistence.html

Social Life in Philadelphia' 1960s

In the 1960s when the old rowhouses were getting altered and subdivided into multiple apartments in Philadelphia, the followers of the Bauhaus School were trying to break away from the ridgidity of the forms. Weise found this time perfect to give a modern language to the row houses by hygienic improvements. These units provided low rents for both homes and small businesses adjacent to the downtown flow of opportunity, nurturing many through hard times.(source: Persistence and Ambitions. http://www.brynmawr.edu/iconog/washw/persistence.html)

...the rise of the automobile and the suburb meant that the regional dominance of the retail stores in the northern part of the area was eroding, as was the area's attractiveness for new residential investment. Parking became a voracious new force. The neighborhood was bypassed by major governmental initiatives like sweeping demolition in the name of urban renewal or the building of highways, the latter a prospect that South Street narrowly avoided in the early 1970s...(source: Persistence and Ambitions. http://www.brynmawr.edu/iconog/washw/persistence.html)

The site was planned in a typical row house style. All the street edges were lined with street facing row houses. Various rectilinear pockets of green spaces were planned to provide beathability to the site. The entrance to the site was planned from Camac street into a landscaped court.

Serving the Automobile

Taking the Automobile into consideration, the houses were planned as single units.The street floor plan was designed to recieve the car and utilities. While the Kitchen and dining was a part of the second floor. The more private areas, bedrooms of the house were planned on the third and the fourth floor.

Interacting with Greenery

An important consideration of the time was to improve the living conditions of the neighborhood by providing green spaces. Weise created small green courtyards on the site and the roof terraces provided in the units were overlooking spaces with the greens to provide the most needed buffer spaces.

Expression

The buildings were planned acoording to cars and green spaces. The interesting use of brick had been because of the availability of good quality philadelphia brick. The influences from Louis Kahn dictate the use of brick arches as lintels for the garages.

The theory behind the use of mansard roof for the building can be explained as the surrounding areas of Camac village were not typical high rises and Weise had a theory of keeping the environment of the surrounding. Hence he used mansard roof for his uppermost floor as this gave him additional rooms in the units and at the same time reduced the volume from the street as well. There were provisions of skylights in the roofs for the rooms.

Typical Housing unit: Camac Village. Source: The Architectural Archives, University of Pennsylvania.