Nathaniel Popkin pens a scathing review of architect A.M. Stern’s recently proposed (and subsequently rejected) designs for the city’s new Museum of the American Revolution. In reviewing the building, Popkin does a good job of establishing the difficult dynamics that can arise when designing with a sensitivity to historic context—especially in a city with as rich a history as Philadelphia.
“Since winning the commission, Stern has continuously implied that the only relevant context for the museum is Independence Hall and the few other buildings of its era nearby. This is willful blindness.”
In the end, says Popkin, the proposed brick box design “is a lost chance, in an era of protest, to make the American uprising feel relevant and inspiring today.”
“…Stern's historicism forces us to look backward through the mist of nostalgia to confront our seminal Revolution. This is blatantly dishonest. Not only was the Revolution messy, as Philadelphia's leading historians tell us, but many of its essential questions remain unresolved. In creating a museum to honor that legacy, we mustn't sell ourselves or our city short.”