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.
Given the ice crust encasing our streets right now, this might seem to be a strange moment to ponder what makes a good playground. A kid is lucky to gulp a few breaths of fresh air in the minutes between school and home. It feels as if it will be months before the slides are warm enough to touch again.
In the late 19th century, when thousands of Italian immigrants were pouring into South Philadelphia to make their fortunes, Seventh Street was transformed into a bustling bankers row. By 1897, there were 25 rowhouse-size banks between Bainbridge and Washington Avenues, all competing to provide newcomers with loans, money transfers, even railroad and steamship tickets.
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.