Jim Kenney's famous temper was on full view the day we strolled around Center City, looking at construction sites. More specifically, we were looking at construction sites where the sidewalks had been blocked. There aren't many things that make the Democratic mayoral candidate madder than having to cross the street because of a sidewalk closure - except when contractors treat the cordoned-off space as free parking.
How do you turn the two-dimensional facade of a rowhouse into a three-dimensional work of architecture? If money is no object, you can break up the inherent flatness of the exterior by lavishing it with fine materials and adding bays and interesting openings. But when you're working on a tight budget, you really need to use your wits.
Having lived through the rise of postmodernism and watched its ironic, pop-art treatment of classical forms filter through the culture - to the point where every strip mall was designed with a flattened pediment over the entrance - I never expected to feel any sympathy for that unfortunate architectural style. But after its champion Michael Graves died last month, I realized I finally have enough distance to look at the period's buildings as historical objects.
Inga Saffron, The Inquirer's architecture critic, writes about architecture, design and planning issues. She was awarded the 2014 Pulitzer Prize in Criticism. Her popular column, "Changing Skyline", has been appearing on Fridays in the paper’s Home & Design section since 1999. In 2012, she completed a Loeb Fellowship at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design.