1st Edition

The Philadelphia School and the Future of Architecture

By John Lobell Copyright 2023
    208 Pages 72 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    208 Pages 72 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Flourishing from 1951 to 1965, the Philadelphia School was an architectural golden age that saw a unique convergence of city, practice, and education, all in renewal. And it was a bringing together of architecture, city and regional planning, and landscape architecture education under the leadership of Dean G. Holmes Perkins.

    During that time at the architecture school at the University of Pennsylvania (known as the Graduate School of Fine Arts or GSFA), Louis Kahn and Robert Venturi were transforming modern architecture; Romaldo Giurgola was applying continental philosophy to architectural theory; Robert Le Ricolais was building experimental structures; Ian McHarg was questioning Western civilization and advancing urban and regional ecology; Herbert Gans was moving into Levittown; and Denise Scott Brown was forging a syncretism of European and American planning theory and discovering popular culture. And in the city, Edmund Bacon was directing the most active city planning commission in the country.

    This book describes the history of the school, the transformation of the city of Philadelphia, and the philosophy of the Philadelphia School in the context of other movements of the time, and looks at what the Philadelphia School has to offer to architecture today and in the future, all from the point of view of a student who was there.

    0. Preface

    0.1. Historical Context

    0.2. How this Book Came About

    0.3. What this Book Is and Is Not

    1. Introduction

    1.1. First Recognition

    1.2. Synergy and Convergence

    1.3. Today’s Golden Age

    1.4. The Philadelphia School in Context

    1.4.1. Design Methods

    1.4.2. The Social Sciences

    1.4.3. Historicism

    1.4.4. Radical Technology

    1.4.5. Semiology

    1.4.6. Postmodernism

    1.4.7. Formalism

    1.4.8. Starchitecture

    1.5. Recognition Today

    1.6. The Approach of the Philadelphia School

    2. Philadelphia

    2.1. A Quick Overview

    2.2. What We Learned

    2.3. Edmund Bacon and the Renewal of Philadelphia

    2.4. The World’s Fair

    2.5. Bacon’s Achievements

    2.6. Bacon’s Legacy

    2.7. Success and Failure of Great American Cities

    3. The School

    3.1. Background

    3.1.1. University of Pennsylvania and Architecture

    3.1.2. Paul Philippe Cret

    3.1.3. Trying to Keep the Past Alive

    3.1.4. Hudnut, Gropius, and Perkins at Harvard

    3.1.5. G. Holmes Perkins: Architect of the Philadelphia School

    3.2. Other Programs

    3.2.1. Land and City Planning

    3.2.2. Landscape Architecture

    3.2.3. Civic Design

    3.2.4. The Unity of Design

    3.2.5. Fine Arts

    3.3. The Architecture Program

    3.3.1. Undergraduate and Graduate Programs

    3.3.2. College at Penn

    3.4. Design

    3.4.1. Basic Design with Nowicki

    3.4.2. First Year

    3.4.3. Design Studios

    3.4.4. Student Work

    3.5. History and Theory

    3.5.1. History and Architectural Education

    3.5.2. Key Buildings

    3.5.3. Denise Scott Brown

    3.5.4. James Murphy

    3.5.5. Romaldo Giurgola

    3.5.6. Robert Venturi

    3.5.7. History-Theory Electives

    3.6. Technology

    3.7. Thesis

    3.8. Kahn’s Master’s Class

    3.9. Our Buildings

    3.9.1. The Fine Arts Building

    3.9.2. The Furness Building

    3.9.3. Meyerson Hall

    3.9.4. Other Buildings

    3.10. Faculty Leaving

    3.11. Campus Unrest

    4. Philosophies of the Philadelphia School

    4.1. Wittgenstein’s Thread

    4.2. The Beaux-Arts and the Philadelphia School

    4.2.1. Why Begin With the Beaux-Arts?

    4.2.2. What was the Beaux-Arts

    4.2.3. The City Beautiful Movement

    4.2.4. The Benjamin Franklin Parkway

    4.2.5. The Chicago World’s Fair

    4.2.6. The Plan of Chicago

    4.2.7. Rejection of the Beaux-Arts and the City Beautiful Movement

    4.2.8. Perkins’s Attack on the Beaux-Arts

    4.2.9. A Renewed Interest in the Beaux-Arts

    4.2.10. Kahn and the Beaux-Arts

    4.3. Meaning in Architecture

    4.3.1. Hudnut, Gropius, and Harvard

    4.3.2. Symbol, Sign, and Meaning

    4.4. Culture

    4.5. Popular Culture

    4.5.1. Andy Warhol Comes to Penn

    4.5.2. Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown

    4.6. History and Theory

    4.7. Modern Architecture

    4.8. Regional Ecology

    4.9. Urbanism

    4.10. Context, Complexity, and Contradiction

    4.10.1. An Architecture for Nowhere

    4.10.2. Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture

    4.12. Spirituality

    4.13. Social Issues

    4.14. A Lived-in Art of Institutions

    4.15. Lineage

    4.16. The Thread


    5. Philadelphia School Buildings

    5.1. General Characteristics

    5.1.1. Clarity of Construction

    5.1.2. Structure as a Giver of Order

    5.1.3. Mechanical Equipment (HVAC) is Expressed, Not Hidden

    5.1.4. A Preference for Masonry and Concrete Over Steel

    5.1.5. Plan Over Section

    5.1.6. A Hierarchical Order of Program, Spaces, and Structure

    5.1.7. An Interest in Geometries

    5.2. Some Buildings

    5.2.1. Trenton Jewish Community Center, Project, 1954-59 by Louis Kahn

    5.2.2. Trenton Bathhouse, Trenton NJ, 1959 by Louis Kahn

    5.2.3. Alfred Newton Richards Medical Research Building  (The Medical Towers), Philadelphia, PA, 1957–60, by Louis Kahn

    5.2.4. Goldenberg House, Project, 1959, by Louis Kahn

    5.2.5. Pender Labs, Philadelphia, PA, 1958 by Geddes, Brecher, Qualls, Cunningham

    5.2.6. Residence Hall Group for the University of Delaware, c. 1966, by Geddes, Brecher, Qualls, Cunningham

    5.2.7. Walnut 32 Parking Garage, Philadelphia, PA, 1963, by Mitchell Giurgola

    5.2.8. Boston City Hall Competition Entry, 1962, by Romaldo Giurgola with Ehrman B. Mitchell and Thomas R. Vreeland, Jr.

    5.2.9. Venturi’s Early Work

    5.2.10. Vanna Venturi House, Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania, by Venturi and Rauch, 1962

    6. The Philadelphia School and the Future of Architecture

    6.1. The GSFA Education

    6.2. The Whites and the Grays

    6.3. The Future of Architecture

    6.3.1. Our Golden Age

    6.3.2. The Beaux-Arts

    6.3.3. Meaning in Architecture

    6.3.4. Culture

    6.3.5. Popular Culture

    6.3.6. History

    6.3.7. Modernism

    6.3.8. Regional Ecology

    6.3.9. Urbanism

    6.3.10. Context

    6.3.11. Construction

    6.3.12. Spirituality

    6.3.13. Social Issues

    6.4. A Lived-in Art of Institutions

    7. Epilogue: My Education


    8.1. Appendix 1: Books That Tell the Story

    8.2. Appendix 2: Books We Read

    8.3. Appendix 3: G. Holmes Perkins

    8.4. Appendix 4: Mimi Lobell

    8.5. Appendix 5: Mimi Lobell's Letter

    8.6. Appendix 6: Robert Geddes on the Philadelphia School




    John Lobell is a professor of Architecture at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, where he has taught since 1969. His courses have included design, planning, Kahn and Venturi, Frank Lloyd Wright, global architecture, creativity, and the social impact of technology. He is part of the team that teaches the architectural history and theory survey.

    He studied architecture at the University of Pennsylvania from 1959 to 1966 and received a post-professional master’s degree for work on architecture and structures of consciousness under G. Holmes Perkins. Subsequent to his architecture education, he studied with a range of important cultural figures, including mythologist Joseph Campbell, social critic Paul Goodman, Buddhist master Chogyam Trungpa, shaman Michael Harner, and Tai Chi master Cheng Man-Ch’ing.

    His wide range of interests and research address the fundamental role of creativity in our lives and how new technologies change our consciousness. He has written numerous articles, contributes to several websites, and has lectured throughout the world. He is the author of several books, including: Louis Kahn: Architecture as Philosophy, Between Silence and Light: Spirit in the Architecture of Louis I. Kahn, Architecture and Structures of Consciousness, Joseph Campbell: The Man and His Ideas, and Visionary Creativity: How New Worlds are Born.