Team project I (for pairs or trios):
Contextualizing Examples of Pre-1840 Philadelphia-Area Buildings.

This assignment is a bit more challenging than the earlier ones, in that it calls more on your resourcefulness in pursing a question and that may require your use of period documents in creative ways as much or more than on readings in modern scholarly publications.

The goal, metaphorically, is to try to place the trees within the forest.

To this point, for this early period, you've been exposed to three venues -- a grand early-18th-century estate beyond the edge of the city, a large institutional building and some more normative, smaller-scale private buildings from the early downtown, and, via slides, a key typology and 1760s stylistic landmark in an intermediate landscape, in the more immediate periphery of the city, and neither a true farm nor a true city house. You've read about a set of key monuments in a chronological survey of the area, and have identified some more focused readings that were intended to help you build a better understanding of the places we visited.

Now the challenge is to see how the parts fit together. To situate the extraordinary amid the ordinary and vice versa, locationally, typologically, socially, and possibly in other ways. To pursue questions of representativeness of different examples and the larger classes of buildings and settings for which they stand. To examine locations and see what the range of their components may have been. To pursue the best state of our accumulated knowledge of prevailing types, in plan, in size, and in other features, whether in writings, individually documented cases, period maps, tax records, fire insurance records, or other kinds of resources that you can think of that inform this kind of issue.

As with your reading responses, a good initial idea is to pose what you think might be critical questions and then imagine some strategies by which one might pursue them. Then look closely at the different pertinent resources at hand, and try to devise a reasonable research program that is both doable in two weeks (meaning that you probably want to constrain your approach in some ways) and is still responsive to the questions you've posed. I'll be about in our usual class hour Friday (in Thomas 153. 3-4), and will also have office hours there monday afternoon, about the same times, if you'd like to run some initial ideas by me.

Write this up in 4-6 pp. (12-point, double spaced, not including images and bibliography), and present this to the class as a brief, 10-minute presentation, ideally using just 2-5 ppt slides.
Due 24 Feb.

Team project II (for different pairs or trios):
Rows and Developers

The most pervasive physical element of Philadelphia is the rowhouse, a building type established early on in Philadelphia, as in many 17th and 18th century Anglo-American cities, but one that finds a new scope and scale in 19th century Philadelphia. By the 2nd half of that century, five to ten thousand rowhouses were being added to the city's periphery each year, an annual number of houses probably not paralleled in any other large American cities, where more of the population increase was accommodated in multiple-unit buildings, from tenements to apartments. Philadelphia, on the other hand, was in name and in fact a "City of Homes," with probably a higher proportion of owner occupancy in single-family homes than any other American city.

That 19th-century home was typically a rowhouse. The story of rowhousing in Philadelphia remains largely unwritten as yet, but it is the critical parallel and complement to the other narrative for the period that we find in survey texts like George B. Tatum's Penn's Great Town (1961) or even Drawing Toward Building (1986), which focus much more on the activities of well-known professional architects, the extraordinary buildings they designed, and the graphic vestiges these left us in their wake.

In this project, you will explore individual episodes in this tale from primary sources, compiling the story of specific rows from a range of document sets. This will be a much more formulaic assignment than the first, again to be done in pairs or trios (but in different teams) over the course of two weeks. The goal is to tell the story of specific rows, weaving together information from "Briefs of Title," period real estate atlases, fire insurance records, surviving fabric, city directories, and census entries, each of which may take you to different places in different parts of the city. These "Briefs" are short printed documents that developers typically issued to demonstrate the historical facts of ownership of a piece of ground just at the point of their subdividing it to build rowhouses on it. Over 1000 of these pamphlets, roughly from the 1840s to the 1880s, survive at different archives and libraries, each about 10-20 pp. long, often with a site plan or two. These are described on a student website here:
[]. A sampling from some Briefs, with images of title pages, excerpted pages, and plans is at [].

Choosing from a list of these Briefs broken down by apparent region into spreadsheets [], use the various sources mentioned above to pursue the story of that row from its development, with special attention to the moment of its earliest fruition.

What form did these take in plan and elevation? What was happening around them when they were built? What kinds of people lived there? Who was the developer, and what can we say about him? Anything else one might add for context to make this instance more revealing, relating it to larger patterns?

Try to visit repositories and the site in a group, coming to each with a focus on what you hope to learn and on your safety when visiting different parts of the city -- you might want to choose places that you can get to relatively easily. Consult with me if you'd like help in choosing a site, starting from those for which you can get access to a Brief.

Write this up in 4-6 pp. (12-point, double spaced, not including images and bibliography), and present this to the class as a brief, 10-minute presentation, ideally using just 2-5 ppt slides.
Due 30 March.

Team project III: (for one to four)
20th-Century Venues

In our first project, we were looking for the big picture of how the individual parts fit together in 18th c. Philadelphia. In the second, for the 19th c., we focused more tightly on a specific place, and on the decisions of a specific developer as an agent recasting the landscape in terms of subdivision and building choices. For the third group project, we want to explore aspects of Philadelphia-area architecture in the 20th century.

This final project will offer a bit more freedom, or at least a choice among approaches. Again, though, your work won’t derive so much from the typical textbook narratives, which in this period usually focus on a handful of preeminent professional architects or planners such as Cret, Howe, Bacon, Kahn, and Venturi; the emergence of International Modernism; and a city center profoundly reshaped by planning and the automobile.

Instead, we’ll mostly focus around mid-century, i.e., from the 1920s through the 1970s, and explore some of the less heroic but most characteristic venues of that time:

This will all require some independent research into primary documents, observation of patterns, and construction of some descriptive framing. I'll be more prescriptive about these for those who’d like a bit more direction, but you are welcome to come up with others, or reframed ones. Here are four topics I had in mind, mostly discussing 20th-century “venues” that are prominent in the built landscape but less so in the literature about it:

(a) Postwar periphery: try to get some kind of handle on the new or recast edges of the city, in suburban subdivisions, roadside commercial shops, strips and malls, even gas stations, new schools and churches. This was probably the locus of the greatest amount of building in the decades after WW2, but not much investigated. See if you can find a way to explore this, and characterize it, sampling the kinds of documents one might turn to for such purposes.

(b) Architects' Building: the exec director the Philadelphia AIA called a couple of weeks ago and asked if someone might be able to do some research on their headquarters building at the NEC of 17th & Sansom, dating from the late 1920s. The specific story of this building is apparently a bit less than straightforward, with different architects involved, and one will want to dredge various archives for period documents about it, but also to focus research about other tall office buildings of the period in Philadelphia to set it among them.

(c) Postwar residence downtown: slipping under the radar of most characterizations of the city’s architecture is a whole set of townhouses and apartment buildings in and near Center City , 1945-80, that toy with old and new notions of urban housing in often intriguing ways. The goal is to try to characterize and document this in part or as a whole.

(d) Evolving suburb: this is the most immediately local of the projects, focused on the area around Bryn Mawr and Haverford in its suburban reincarnation, starting around 1880. The idea is to try to run down documentation of the extant buildings around (but not part of) the two campuses. Do your best to characterize the evolution of the area, or some sector, coordinated with other groups, running outward from the campus. When were things built, and what can you learn about who were their architects, developers – try to run down any untethered citations in the PAB for the area, using atlases and any other sources to try to identify them with footprints from atlases and images of these buildings. Also, try to characterize changing trends over the period in the buildings and their relation to the land, moving beyond simple national characterizations of stylistic development.

Again, you may work solo if you like, trying to find some reduced frame within a topic, but if you can find teammates that you haven’t worked with on previous projects, groups of up to four would be fine. Try to come up with a team, a topic, and a strategy, and run these by me before early next week -- at the latest, try to come to office hours next Monday afternoon, the 17t,h to get an early start on this. You'll serve this up on 4-6 pages on paper and in PowerPoint again, but we’ll have to reschedule the presentation day from the 27th, as on the course calendar.

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