April 27th, 2011 | No Comments »

This really warm weather brings out the walkers, including me, and a day of exploring Washington Square West confirms that Philadelphia is looking pretty great in all this sunshine.  More historic streetlights are going up on South 12th Street; that block by the slowly rebirthing Odd Fellows Building really needs the light, notwithstanding the horrendous flashing LED’s washing the facade of the new nightclub next door. (And does anyone know what “The Leoncalvo” was, by the way?)

Tulips, azaleas and wisteria splash across the front of the beautiful and historic Pennsylvania Hospital with vibrant color, reminding me of my first days as a new Philly resident and coming upon that glorious monument to Dr. Thomas Bond’s and Benjamin Franklin’s vision that became America’s first hospital.  I knew I was someplace extraordinary.

And then there are the Litter Critters: fanciful re-imaginings of the very functional and very boring Big Belly recycling and trash cans along the sidewalks of Headhouse Square and South Street.  The exuberantly designed vinyl wraps encircling the trash receptacles would put a smile on any face with their individual personalities and colorful palettes. 

Thanks to the city’s extraordinary Mural Arts program (Mayor Nutter just bragged that Philly is the mural capital of the universe!) for their Big Picture art education program.  I finally connected the mental dots about the so-cool, festively decorated trash trucks that started appearing last year.

Similar kudos to the Lombard Street homeowner who, fed up with the poorly located and ugly traffic signal powerboxes on our sidewalks that also serve as major tagger-magnets, hired an artist to make “her” powerbox a perpetual reminder of spring.

It’s quite a spring in Philadelphia:  PIFA is just wrapping up, and what a magnifique three weeks of massive arts festival the @Kimmel Center has brought us.   We had no trapeze lessons, but enjoyed many of the terrific offerings.  Can’t wait for next year.

Now for Penn Relays.  And the first blooms in our own garden.

April 1st, 2011 | 1 Comment »

Philadelphia's Mother Bethel AME, a proud recipient of Save America's Treasures preservation grant funding. Maybe among the last. Photo courtesy Mother Bethel AME Church

The final verdict is in.  President Obama and the “tough-on-spending” crowd in Washington got their way when the latest stopgap federal funding bill that Obama signed recently abolished the Save America’s Treasures grant program.  It’s true, certain members of Congress had hijacked some of those grant funds by way of their own pet project earmarks over the past few years.  Nevertheless, thousands of fragile pieces of our national culture were saved, preserved, restored and celebrated thanks to the SAT grant program that began as a vision of then-First Lady Hillary Clinton in the mid-1990s.

In Philadelphia, we’ve been fortunate that a lot of pretty important and valued landmarks have been the recipients of SAT funding.  Mother Bethel AME Church, the founding location of Rev. Richard Allen’s African Methodist Episcopal church, built in 1890, got badly needed structural repairs.  Christ Church in Old City, the Eastern State Penitentiary and more than 30 other critical heritage projects got funding that, because they required matching money, leveraged much more private philanthropic giving to see the projects completed.

Now, no more.  The nation’s only source of bricks and mortar preservation help is ended.  In the thirty years that I’ve been making my own small efforts to help preserve our cultural patrimony, I’ve heard so often “why can’t America be like Europe, where they appreciate their historic buildings and places and really preserve them?”  I never paid much attention to that comparison question (apples to oranges in so many ways).  But now, quoting Winston Churchill, who was responding to a wartime minister who proposed slashing cultural spending in Britain, I ask “then what are we fighting for?”

Let’s do some comparisons.  The Tory/LibDem coalition government in that selfsame Britain, which has just slashed its spending by an even greater proportion than Congress’ deficit hawks are calling for, has announced that the Heritage Lottery Fund will give out £300 million (pounds) – that’s more than $500 million – a year starting in 2013 for heritage preservation and conservation projects in the UK.  That’s ten times the largest ever annual US appropriation to Save America’s Treasures.  Makes you wonder why so many American leaders, who holler about American values and our cultural exceptionalism, are utterly unwilling to help pay for sustaining it.

Wagner Free Institute of Science in Philadelphia. Photo Credit: by Tom Crane, courtesy of Wagner Free Institute of Science

So what if a New Jersey Senator successfully earmarked some dough to restore and re-open Thomas Edison’s Invention Factory?  Just like at the Wagner Free Institute of Science in Philadelphia – with perhaps a slightly more recognizable brand – the Edison Factory used that SAT money to preserve and present to our kids and future generations an inspiration for getting interested in science and innovation.

While Congress and the President have ignored the cries from thousands of Americans who have argued for the job-creating, culture-preserving value of Save America’s Treasures (the abolition of which will save the beleaguered Treasury the equivalent of a tiny rounding error in the federal budget) the English Heritage Lottery Fund has embarked on a nationwide consultation to get UK residents’ opinions and ideas on how the £300 million should be spent each year.  What a daft idea.  Listening to the tax payers.

Is NPR really next?

March 24th, 2011 | 3 Comments »

Slick Art Moderne retail topped by a parking garage. Girard Square, 12th & Chestnut, Center City Philadelphia

Jeez.   Change is hard.  Here I’ve been a change agent for all these years – though I didn’t really know to call myself one until fairly recently.   And now my own life is changing as my story is taking off in new directions.  I’ve spent a lot of time over those years thinking about/helping others to make decisions on/persuading those who resisted making choices about how and whether to preserve the existing built places that make cities, towns and landscapes unique.  For a long time most have called that “historic preservation.”   But those two words have come to be misunderstood, as recently described by Johanna Hoffman in Next American City, if not actively resisted or even despised.  Maybe we ought to try “change management.”

So even as my personal story sees the turn of a few more pages, and I inform, persuade, cajole (and put the bite on) folks in different ways, I can’t help but see the change agent role remaining as a constant in the chapters of my story ahead.

It’s tricky trying to help shape decisions about the art and commerce of making or destroying or changing buildings, spaces and landscapes that people use and live in.  Buildings and spaces require use – an engagement with people in direct ways not usually experienced by the consumers of visual, theatrical, musical, fine or popular arts.  It’s a level of interactivity that places an extra layer of meaning onto architecture and design.  Decision-making and opinion-shaping are more difficult when you’re talking about places.  Managing change with a preservation ethic means having to make hard choices and having to explain and justify them to skeptics who always wonder who made you the taste police.  And the speeding up of development, and development decision-making, in a creative city on the rise like Philadelphia makes being a change manager still harder. #PhillyRising.  We have to not only discern what places are important to people now but anticipate what people might find important in the – maybe not even too – distant future.  Example?  We dodged the bullet aimed at our generation by a previous one that really wanted the “ugly” Philadelphia City Hall erased from Penn Square.  I sure don’t want to be aiming similar guns at the Millenials.

Stephen Girard Building, 1896, , 12th near Market Street

Here’s a more current example.  I saw a presentation recently on the latest proposal for the eminently re-developable Stephen Girard block in Center City Philadelphia.  Previous, pretty grandiose dreams for blading the entire block between 11th and 12th Streets and building a gazillion square feet of mixed uses on Market and Chestnut are thankfully history.  Now, the low-slung, full block Market Street building (a building beloved by few) may be replaced by an exciting mixed-use glass structure, better-scaled and with some cool potential tenants and slick graphics.  For the rest of the block: no announced plans, yet.

And there’s the provocative change management problem.  On 12th Street, in mid-block, is the Stephen Girard Building, an imposing and nicely detailed Renaissance Revival skyscraper.  A little tatty right now, but it has good bones and is marked with an important name in Philadelphia history, after all.  Most preservationists will probably argue passionately for its preservation and repurposing.  I will.

Then there’s the interesting, maybe not as pretty, Art Moderne building filling the block fronting Chestnut Street.  That one takes some more careful perusal and thought.  Built in the 1930s, it replaced much altered rowhouses that had long been used for retail.  Several levels of parking sit atop the storefronts, which are nicely articulated in great Modern Movement materials and finishes.  Certainly, it’s a unique building telling an important story of Machine Age change and urban growth.  I’ll bet there will be fewer passionate advocates for this one, but I’m voting for trying to find a way to better monetize and preserve it.  It’s an important part of the connective tissue in the retail heart of Center City and a subtly urbane streetscape building.

The decision-makers and taste-arbiters are going to have a big change management challenge soon on the Girard Block.  It’ll be interesting.

Johanna at Next American City says preservation is misunderstood.  You think?  After all these years, my family back in Denver still isn’t sure what I do for my day job.  But now that I’m managing change for other organizations and in my own story, they kind of get it.  Kind of.

March 3rd, 2011 | No Comments »

The Sustainable Cities Collective has posted a Self-Affirmation Guide for Urbanites that’s helping me to stay the course as a confirmed and happy city-dweller, in spite of the shards of wood cornice still falling off the building next door and yes, those annoying little Ziploc bags lurking on our stoop.

I can tick off each entry in the Collective’s checklist of “optimizing human experience” characteristics of urban residency with my own such experience in Philadelphia :

•  Chances for knowledge transfer, informal and formal – we just met some really smart and interesting folks at a Kimmel Center event marking the upcoming opening of the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts (@PIFAphilly), and this morning I got a good dose of new knowledge at the monthly Design Advocacy Group meeting at the Center for Architecture.

•  Culture available on a grand scale – we can be in our seats for the Philadelphia Orchestra at the aforesaid Kimmel Center after a seven minute walk from home.  I need say no more.

•  Smart people attracted to centers of learning and political power – I have to say I get less pleasure from the huge lighted JEFFERSON sign looming over Washington Square West than I do from the neat and varied, place-based graphics marking University of the Arts locations in the neighborhood.  But the braininess surrounding us all the time is palpable and wonderful.

•  Density = reduced carbon footprint – best thing we ever did was to ditch the car and join Philly Car Share two years ago, SEPTA’s sudden cancellation of my train this morning, after a forty minute wait for its “on time” alter ego, notwithstanding.

Urban life, even in Philadelphia, can sometimes be maddening, certainly.  My husband’s small creative business in Center City would thrive and create still more jobs were it not for the infernal Business Privilege Tax.  You go, Mayor Nutter!  The falling ice, crumbling cornice, peeling paint and general shabbiness of the empty and mostly boarded up building next door is a constant irritant.  (Although I heard at this morning’s DAG from speaker John Kromer that, of the 553 vacant houses he inventoried in 1998 in Southwest Center City, all but 49 were renovated and occupied by 2008, so things are getting a lot better.  For some neighborhoods.  See John’s candidacy for Sheriff, by the way.)  The Community Design Collaborative, celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, is connecting more young design and planning professionals with more communities, empty industrial sites and other neighborhood strengthening opportunities than ever before.  Great balloons, guys.

Thanks to Next American City and the Sustainable Cities Collective, I can confirm that there’s really no chance that I’ll be cheating with a suburb.  For one thing, it seems they don’t age well, and I’m too old to try to keep finding ever younger ones.

Posted in Uncategorized
February 3rd, 2011 | 2 Comments »

It snowed in Philadelphia – again –  yesterday.  But already the piles of white that had turned grey, slushy and icy are melting and the water is flowing into the storm sewers and thence to the rivers.

A proposed rowhouse block urban watershed project by North Street Design

The little rivulets of trickling water among the crunchy piles of snow lingering on the pavement remind me that beneath the city are ancient brick culverts not unlike the Paris sewers in miniature.  In them: a spiderweb of historic streams and creeks that once knitted together the tiny communities and isolated residents of the lower Delaware and Schuylkill watersheds.  In the 18th and early 19th century farmers, millers and factories relied on them.   Wildlife and farm animals drank from them.  They were pathways and destinations.  And then, as the city spread across them, they were channelized, enclosed and undergrounded.

Reopening the historic creeks through the densely built city isn’t likely to happen.  The city’s Water Department says that’s “crazy.”  Nevertheless, Philadelphia architects Gavin and Juliet Riggall have a vision and a business built on capturing the rain and snow from the sky.  These two friends of ours are working on plans for new watersheds in Philadelphia neighborhoods, creating both beauty and utility, which the Riggalls regard as two parts of the design whole.

Married and working together in their emerging young firm, Juliet and Gavin are committed to making a difference.  North Street Design, which they started in 2008, is literally breaking new ground with a diverse portfolio and an even broader vision of how design can make positive change in Philadelphia and across the region.

We knew about their cool design aesthetic and commitment to making their residential clients feel comfortable living through the chaos and disruption of a home renovation project.  My husband and I are one of those clients.  But what I didn’t know until recently is the story of their partnership with another design firm in an award-winning project, “Waterwork.”  It’s about empowering people in city neighborhoods to take control of the spaces they inhabit and helping to answer the question “”how do we turn vacant land into an asset in Philadelphia,” creating long-term solutions for the 40,000+ vacant properties in the city.

There are more than 40,000 vacant lots in Philadelphia. Urban Voids seeks to find ways to capture opportunity from them and making neighborhoods more livable and residents empowered.

The venture, in its fifth year, proposes to reclaim vacant sites and make them green filters by capturing rain water and redirecting its flow.  The City Parks Association and the Van Alen Institute, sponsors of the Urban Voids design competition, praised the Waterwork proposal as they awarded it their Grand Prize:  “This design strategy offers ecologically sound recreational and infiltration solutions for the use of naturally cleaned storm-water run-off.”  The social and economic, not to mention ecological, benefits of the plan have captured the interest and involvement of Drexel’s Civil Engineering department, the City of Philadelphia Water Department and the Point Breeze neighborhood.  There, the Riggalls and their partners are deeply involved in engaging the community in work on a green infrastructure master plan.  What’s needed now is further funding to realize the plan.

Meanwhile, Gavin and Juliet are building a practice that responds to design challenges in a very personal way.  “Good and beautiful environments make people happy,” says Juliet.

The couple met on their first day as graduate architecture students at the University of Pennsylvania’s  Graduate School of Fine Arts.  Gavin’s background and undergraduate education was in art, while Juliet arrived with a civil engineering degree – having switched from aerospace engineering when she saw that her desire to work on (literally) stellar  structures like the International Space Station was less likely to be realized “than working on helicopters and cargo planes.”  Both saw the creative and society-enhancing opportunities that architecture can, in its best incarnations, offer as a profession and a calling.  While each spent time working for other firms, they say that their goals and aspirations are best fulfilled working in their own business.

The historic, Pennsylvania Railroad-built Cynwyd Station. Photo: the Lower Merion Historical Society

They are wisely diversifying their products and their skills to respond to a fluid and uncertain marketplace.  They are not only designing but are involved in the fabrication and installation of rainwater harvesting devices and systems that offer the aesthetic and practical functions that they always demand from anything they’re involved with.  Their current design projects include an exciting rain water harvesting installation on the historic Cynwyd train station as part of an extensive rehabilitation of that landmark by the Lower Merion Historical Society. The challenge there, remarks Gavin, is to appropriately integrate a 21st century technology and application with the historic architecture.  Similar challenges will face them as they begin work soon on a rain water harvesting project at historic Woodford Mansion, in Fairmount Park, in collaboration with the Philadelphia Orchard Project and the East Park Revitalization Alliance.

They are busy, and excited about their prospects.  Gavin describes the many nights at Penn Design when he slept under his desk: “Creation makes me happy – it’s a source of contentment.”  I’ll bet he still sleeps at his desk occasionally, while the 3-D computer models he’s working on take their languorous time to render.  Here’s hoping that the groundbreaking and poetic design ideas that the Riggalls are bringing to the social and economic environment in Philadelphia are as inexorable as the flow of water, falling from the sky, that flows into the streams and culverts and then gathers force and spills into the rivers that help define us as a city.

December 31st, 2010 | 2 Comments »

What IS this?

We were in Denver – my hometown – last week and saw, with horror, the results of the continuing teardown phenomenon that may have slowed somewhat nationally but is apparently still rampant in the Mile High City.  In every neighborhood, there they were:  overscaled, mostly terribly detailed Tuscan villas, French chateaux, phony Colonials.  Spec houses for the most part, we surmised.

Obviously, Denver hasn’t gotten a grip on the practice yet.  An ordinance passed a couple of years ago that gives neighbors a chance to respond to proposed teardowns, along with a period for potential designation by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, is coming under increasing fire from the crowd that cries “real estate terrorism”.  In their sights this week:  a terrific mid-century modern house in Belcaro Park, an upscale development of the 1950s and ’60s on Denver’s near east side.  (Full disclosure:  I grew up there.)  Once a cohesive district of large ranches, Usonians and traditionals, most of them architect-designed, Belcaro is losing its sense of place at a dismaying rate.  The area has avoided the scourge of overscaled replacements that plague other historic Denver neighborhoods only because the lots are positively vast to begin with. The permanent deed restrictions and strong neighborhood association that were counted on for decades to protect the character of the place have now apparently failed to stem the tide of scrape-offs.

Wallbank House, 1958. Denver's Belcaro Park

The 1958 Wallbank House, designed by architects Tician Papachristou, a colleague and biographer of Marcel Breuer, and my old friend, prominent Denver designer Dan Havekost, is set to be replaced by a house just 400 square feet larger.  So the landfill-enlarging teardown isn’t even justified by overheated expectations for ostentatious amounts of space.  Just a lack of imagination and appreciation for a stunning mid-century design that could easily be adapted and expanded.

Like so  many post World War II developments across the country, Belcaro hasn’t been formally surveyed to create an inventory of significant properties to justify the historic district it could have been.  (Ironically, it was in suburban Denver where the first National Register district of mid-century modern houses in Arapaho Acres was listed a few years ago.)   It’s time to do so.  The shift of ownership in the neighborhood suggests an opportunity:  a younger cadre of buyers are part of a generational trend toward appreciation for the architecture of the 1950s and ’60s.   Places like Belcaro Park should learn, quickly, to capitalize on their architectural assets, educate residents and would-be buyers about the unique character and opportunities of the existing built environment and help realtors and investors to make informed, creative and environmentally sustainable decisions.

I hope it’s not too late for Belcaro.  Other historic Denver neighborhoods – Hilltop, Bonnie Brae – may have lost too much.  Sad.  And here I thought northern New Jersey was the teardown capital.

Wallberg House. (photos thanks to The Denver Eye)

December 15th, 2010 | No Comments »

Channel 6 video

The Petty's Run archaeological site, where iron and steel forges and a cotton mill dating from 1730 helped build an American industrial economy. Soon to be a field of grass again.

So much for slashing unnecessary spending in the New Jersey budget.  The Capitol Joint Management Commission (JMC) recently approved expending an as yet undetermined amount of money (“more than $400,000,” according to the beleaguered designers and historic preservation consultants hauled before them) to fill in the Petty’s Run archaeological site on the New Jersey Statehouse grounds in Trenton.  As historians and archaeologists from all over the U.S. and Great Britain are howling about the wasted opportunities for scholarship and study, Trenton business and tourism leaders are mourning the effects of another blow to the capital city’s constantly thwarted efforts to build a tourism economy.

In spite of the hundreds of thousands of dollars – constitutionally dedicated and previously appropriated – already spent on exploration, study and design for an interpretive park construction project that is also already funded, New Jersey’s spending more indeterminate dollars to  cancel the park, fill in the hole and plant grass.

Meanwhile, downriver in Philadelphia, saner and cleverer lovers of history and economic development are opening the exciting President’s House on Independence Mall, steps from the Liberty Bell.  It’s another (ahem) internationally significant archaeological site that is being beautifully interpreted and presented to a public and visitors who have already proven that it’s a big attraction.  Hundreds watched from viewing platforms every day as the dig unfolded.  Kudos to the City of Philadelphia and the National Park Service for their recognition that history and tourism mean economic activity.

No explanation, now, from the Governor’s or Lieutenant Governor’s offices in Trenton for  the undue haste in filling in the Petty’s Run site.  Preservationists and archaeologists wait anxiously for revelation of the plan for appropriate recordation, artifact retrieval, masonry conservation and careful protection of the site as it is filled.  (The JMC approved this “project” not only without a budget but without a plan.)

Some people just have no imagination.  I’m glad Philadelphia does.

November 17th, 2010 | 1 Comment »

Tony Goldman, the developer with the magic touch who transformed SoHo in New York and South Beach in Miami Beach, among many other re-imagined and revived commercial districts on the Atlantic Coast, recently won the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Louise DuPont Crowninshield Award for his “superlative achievement in the preservation and interpretation of our historic and architectural heritage.”   Goldman has seen opportunity in older urban enclaves over and over again, and we in Center City Philadelphia are lucky to be receiving the fruits of his vision and investment.

Goldman Properties have rehabbed some 25, mostly historic, buildings in the Midtown Village area just east of Broad Street.  (I wish we could agree on a snappier name for what many in the community – although maybe not savvy brokers and marketers – still fondly know as The Gayborhood.)  From the signature, Horace Trumbauer-designed Philadelphia Building on Walnut Street and fanning out north and south, Goldman’s retail, office and residential projects have revolutionized the area.  Once stagnant and maybe even a little seedy, it’s now an animated district of interesting restaurants and amazing entrepreneurial businesses, attracting hipsters and tourists (even tourists from Jersey).

The Lincoln, Camac & Locust

This week, we midtown denizens are eagerly awaiting the annual launch of the Beaujolais Nouveau vintage, when  quite a few of those entrepreneurs will offer tastings, pairings and wine specials at eight restaurants and shopping deals, demonstrations and samplings at six retailers.  Vive la Beaujolais Day!

And vive la difference the Goldman touch has made on the larger neighborhood.  We’ve waited a long time, but work has started on the shuttered Grand United Order of Odd Fellows Lodge at 12th and Spruce.  It looks like the elegant but dingy terra cotta-swathed building will offer full floor flats, with huge windows looking out on 12th Street’s big honey locust trees.   Word is that just around the corner, on our neighborhood’s arguably most picturesque street, Camac, the burned-out Lincoln Apartments is poised to be reborn as a boutique hotel.  And across the road, Stephen Starr will soon open still another in his seemingly endless herd of dining establishments in the former Deux Chiminees, nee Princeton Club..

Odd Fellows Building, 12th & Spruce

Back at the Philadelphia Building, tenant Next American City, the edgy and thought-provoking nonprofit magazine and advocacy group that promotes and celebrates innovation and urban life in cities like Philadelphia, is joined by many youthful,  creative economy firms, including my husband’s web development company.

It’s pretty exciting, especially since we’re all looking for signs of a rebounding economy.

Is Tony ahead of the curve?  He certainly has been all along.  Kudos to Tony Goldman for the incredibly transformative visions he invests in.  And kudos to the National Trust for acknowledging his work.  Oh, and I can’t wait to smash a couple plates at Opa when it opens on Sansom Street sometime soon.

A construction dumpster can often be a good sign in front of a long-unloved historic building

October 9th, 2010 | 1 Comment »

The Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia hosted the second annual Neighborhood Preservation Conference at Temple University yesterday.  PAGP  unveiled their Neighborhood Initiative programs and grant opportunities, and presented some terrific seminars focusing on how residents and organizations can help preserve and enhance “middle market” neighborhoods in Philadelphia.  I was thrilled and inspired to see a roomful of conference participants – at a preservation gathering! – that looks like Philadelphia.  In my 30+-year career in historic preservation, I’ve long joined my colleagues in being utterly frustrated and dumbfounded at the narrow demographic of the people we collaborate with, learn from and network with.  We’ve railed against the lack of diversity in the  preservation “community,” but that real diversity of talent and interest has been a long time coming.  Now the Alliance, with partners and supporters led by the William Penn Foundation, have been doing exactly what we should all have been doing all along:  helping folks manage change in and improve the neighborhoods where they live and are invested.

It was an inspiring and informative day.  The workshop on commercial corridor revitalization was moderated by Jim Flaherty, the City of Philadelphia’s senior manager for economic initiatives, whose portfolio includes the city’s Main Street program.  Among his fellow conversation leaders were developer  David Waxman from MM Partners, who’s making incredible investments in Brewerytown along Girard Avenue; Paul Aylesworth, who until recently led the commercial revitalization project for the Korean CDC on North 5th Street; and Patricia Blakeley, Executive Director of the amazing, 150-year-old Philadelphia institution that invests in small businesses in the city, The Merchants Fund.  Each talked  talked about their experiences and collaboration with each other and many more civic leaders, like the Community Design Collaborative,  and residents, in bringing real change to great, emerging neighborhoods in Philly.

The “audience” wasn’t an audience at all.  The participants in the conference are all active change-managers in their neighborhoods all over Philadelphia.  Which is, I recently heard, growing in population again after decades of sliding the other way, with 7,000 new residents last year. Great news.

For-profit developers, nonprofit community development corporations, residents and civic associations, passionate neighborhood leaders, fresh food advocates (I can’t wait to visit Romano’s Grocery in Juniata Park) and historic preservationists were all together, sharing information and working toward common goals.  It’s a a long time coming.  And fantastic.

September 30th, 2010 | No Comments »

I’m pleased to see that our preservation colleague Adele Chatfield-Taylor, longtime President of the American Academy in Rome, is to receive the 12th annual Vincent Scully Prize at the National Building Museum in November.  Adele joins a distinguished company of leaders who have, through ideas and scholarship, influenced the world of design and architecture.   Among the previous Prize winners are Vincent Scully himself, Prince Charles the Prince of Wales, recently retired National Trust for Historic Preservation president Richard Moe,  the Agha Khan, Jane Jacobs and Robert A.M. Stern.

In the words of the National Building Museum’s announcement of her award, “Ms. Chatfield-Taylor has consistently promoted excellence in the design world, while ensuring that the planning, architecture, and historic preservation disciplines remain connected to the public.”  I can think of few of my colleagues, mentors or teachers (all of which Adele has been over the years) who better represent or promote that nexus of people and place.  A fellow Columbia Preservation Alum (as well as one of my teachers there) and Rome Prize winner, Adele’s contributions to the field are legion: from the New York City Landmarks Commission to the Design Arts Program at the National Endowment, where she helped to create the Mayors’ Institute on City Design.

It’s gratifying to see that the Vincent Scully Prize Jury recognizes the importance of preservation as an integral part of making and conserving great places and Adele’s important and sustained voice and leadership in that endeavor.  Congratulations Adele.