Joseph G. Brin, Architect & Writer

Archive for the ‘Urban Space’ Category

Lost Lots of Philadephia

In Environment & Infrastucture, Urban Space on July 12, 2013 at 1:25 pm

Lost Lots of Philadelphia

No matter how many times you hear the oft-bandied statistics about the City of Philadelphia’s 30-40,000 empty lots, the numbers are still staggering. Though it is sobering to witness the immediate devastation of a natural disaster, urban wastelands are the arid result of a more insidious, decades-long process…


Collaboration Not As Easy As Pie

In Environment & Infrastucture, Urban Space on July 12, 2013 at 1:21 pm

Photo: Joseph G. Brin

The URBN Center is a radically reconstructed interior on the Drexel University campus in Philadelphia, in a building originally designed by architect Robert Venturi.

As you pass through the glazed entry into a forest of exposed building systems, the scent of linseed oil is in the air. Open tread, wood stairways float up through a thicket of steel beams, bolts, wires, pipes and shut-off valves…

Philly’s Doctor of Green

In Environment & Infrastucture, Urban Space on April 22, 2013 at 1:28 pm

M2 Triangles map


Max Zahniser doesn’t usually make house calls. As a leader in sustainability and integrative, systems thinking he lends his expertise to wide ranging building projects and organizations. He promotes green practices on a national level and has been at the inception of advanced thinking in that arena…

Block Bustin’

In Architecture, Historic Preservation, Urban Space on April 11, 2013 at 3:24 pm

South 5th and Bainbridge | Photo: Nathaniel Popkin

It’s the old domino effect. First Charles Zarit Tailor Supplies, established in 1942, closes up. Then the corner family hardware store, in business since 1872. The particular character of a small city block–this one South Fifth Street between South and Bainbridge–quietly erodes and then vanishes…

Portrait of a Neighborhood Park

In Environment & Infrastructure, Urban Space on June 25, 2012 at 5:19 pm

Cianfrani Park is a small, scruffy but much loved park in Philadelphia – small enough that you can sometimes take in a multi-stage theater of human activity.

The Cianfrani name has a connection to Henry “Buddy” Cianfrani, the late ex-state senator, who was convicted and served time on federal racketeering and mail-fraud charges. He had also scandalized the community by romancing a local newspaper reporter, a “source.” The park itself, though, is actually named in honor of his mother…

M1_Park plan dwg

New York Impressions

In Architecture, Urban Space on March 8, 2012 at 2:54 am

M1_Empire State day 5 in

Empire State Building

Photo: Joseph G. Brin © 2012

Have you ever seen someone do a bad impression? It’s kind of embarrassing. You either have the gift or you don’t. Philadelphia should just give it up, stop trying to be New York City or wishing it was New York City. We already have two fake Chrysler Buildings (Liberty Place I & II) in Philadelphia. Embarrassing enough.

New York City’s riches are manifold and manifest. It’s also so huge, more of a whirling planet than a city – both exhilarating and exhausting.

But someone asked me once “What is Philadelphia?” and I’ve been trying to figure it out ever since.

Compare and contrast might be the ticket to understanding…

B. Free Philadelphia

In Urban Space on February 17, 2012 at 8:45 pm



2004. News spread in Philadelphia on February 17, 4:15PM, that Faheem Thomas-Childs, ten years old, was dead.  He was caught in a hail of nearly 100 bullets, crossfire between rival gangs that occurred as children streamed into school to start a new day. Faheem Thomas-Childs held on but the wounds were too devastating and his bright light flickered out.

In his own neighborhood, Faheem Thomas-Childs was known as “A real peacemaker.”