By Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Philadelphia Police Headquarters isn’t slated to move to West Philadelphia for a few years, but a group of Penn graduate students is getting ahead of the curve by launching a campaign to save the Roundhouse.
Located at the corner of 7th and Race Streets, the Police Administrative Building, also known as “The Roundhouse,” with its kidney shaped concrete exterior, has become a symbol of power. Built in the early 1960s, is considered a post-war architectural landmark of the Philadelphia School. That’s why Penn graduate student Kimber VanSant launched an online campaign to save it.
“It was heralded by the city when it was constructed,” says VanSant, who is studying historical preservation and launched the campaign with other students as a class project. “It was seen as progressive. It won awards for its design. Preservation isn’t based on pretty versus ugly. It’s based on significance.”
The property was designed by the firm of Geddes, Brecher, Qualls & Cunningham and was constructed onsite, which was a first for its time.
Although the Philadelphia City Planning Commission hasn’t officially announced its plans for the building (the Central District plan, which includes the city’s intentions for the area where the Roundhouse sits is expected to be released in March), last month the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia put the Roundhouse on its endangered properties list.
“Before it gets to the point where they want to tear it down, we want to draw attention to the building,” says Ben Leech, who works as director of advocacy at the Preservation Alliance. “We’re quite sure that Philadelphia would really regret having demolished this building with the benefit of hindsight.”
Leech says post-war architecture in Philadelphia has only recently become recognized as important to the city.
“Every period of architecture must go through a era where it is hated before it is recognized as being historic or appreciated,” says Leech. “It’s no different from buildings in the 1700s or 1800s. There are buildings today that no one would ever propose demolishing that 50 years ago were seen as ugly and outdated and in the way.”
The old Metropolitan Hospital at 8th and Race Streets has a rounded design very similar to the Roundhouse. That property was converted to luxury condos in 2005.