Penicillin and the Wrecking Ball: Two Views of Philadelphia’s Modern Redevelopment

Walking Tour

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Philadelphians were introduced to the value of modern planning in shaping the future of the city during the landmark, Better Philadelphia Exhibition of 1947. This show laid the groundwork for a reform era where public investment in urban renewal and community building brought figures like Edmund Bacon to the forefront of urban design and planning. Two modes dominated in the city and will be explored in this tour. Independence Mall followed the prevailing mode of demolition as a means of making way for new – in this case – civic minded uses, while Society Hill became a model for an urban renewal that was more engaged with the value of existing historic fabric – an approach that sought to make use of “penicillin” over the wrecking ball. A who’s-who of architects worked in these areas to create important, if sometimes controversial, works like GBQC’s Philadelphia Police Administration Building (1959-63). Other sites on this tour include: Rohm & Haas Headquarters (Pietro Belluschi; 1964); Society Hill Towers and Townhouses (I.M. Pei; 1958-64); African American Museum (Theodore Victor Cam, 1976); as well as a number of private houses by Mitchell / Giurgola, I.M. Pei and Adolph deRoy Mark.


Guides: William Whitaker, University of Pennsylvania and Grace Ong Yan, Thomas Jefferson University


50 max (two groups of 25)

For general Symposium registration, click here. To register for just this tour, click the button below.