David Artigas
Fon Wang

Vincent Kling, uncredited. Courtesy of Kling


“Our fundamental conviction in approaching the design of every project is that architecture is for the people… the greatest challenge to the architect is to recreate environments for the people…Elegance, grace, style, functional efficiency, economy and durability are still important to owners as ever, but today the most pressing need is for humane spaces in which people can live and breathe.”  -Vincent Kling, 1969

Vincent Kling's design philosophy as “architecture for the people” was apparent in his approach to the redevelopment of the area west of city hall in Philadelphia -- Penn Center.  The project was envisioned as an homage to the utility, efficiency, and functionality of skyscrapers in combinations of parks and plazas and the like.  Green space was weaved in and out of towers, shopping, and transportation stations as a respite for the city worker to enjoy and dwell in and around downtown after the workday is done.  The sequence of entering the city, putting in time in the office, running errands and attending entertainment events was a major vehicle of design. 

The goal was to bring the middle class back to the city.  So, perhaps for this project, his design philosophy is more aptly modified as “architecture for the people” of the middle class.  The plan focused on office buildings and amenities that assumed a nine to five work day and provisions for travel from a dwelling in the suburbs of the city.  His masterplan for Penn Center had a major impact on the urban design of the city.  Although portions of the plan have been demolished or replaced, the effect of the plan remains today.

The question that frames this report is formulated in respect to Kling’s design philosophy as applicable to his design for Penn Center.  Design for the people is an obvious almost glib statement for architects to make.  However, the approach to the implementation of this statement over the years has greatly changed.  The story that will be explored in this website is how Kling understood and implemented from words to built form the philosophy of design for the people in Philadelphia in the 1960’s.  As preservationists and designers it is imperative to understand the original design intention in order to interpret and continue the vitality of the structure as well as transform the elements that not longer contribute to the whole.  A successful growing city treats the past as a base for the future.

This website was created to satisfy the requirements of:
HSPV 600 Historic Documentation and Archival Research
University of Pennsylvania
Fall, 2005

This webpage and its contents are for educational purposes only.

Urban Renewal Movement in Philadelphia and Building Timeline
Critique and Analysis
of Urban Renewal in
Acknowledgements and Bibliography