Campaign under way to save Roundhouse
PHILADELPHIA -- In this Colonial-era city that adores its brick-and-cobblestone neighborhoods, the Roundhouse has always been a square peg.
The curvilinear landmark from 1963, officially named the Police Administration Building and situated near Chinatown, is one that many Philadelphians love to hate. Now, city planners are sketching out a plan for the near future that would wipe the Roundhouse off the map.
The police department is bursting at the seams inside the Roundhouse and plans are afoot to relocate across town into a stately 87-year-old insurance building vacant for two decades. There's no timetable for the move but fans of the Roundhouse have already started a grassroots campaign to preserve the modernist landmark.
"It's an awkward phase where it's too new to be considered historic and too old to be considered useful," said Ben Leech of the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia, which placed the Roundhouse on its most endangered properties list.
The organization also is working with the group Save the Roundhouse, created by University of Pennsylvania historical preservation graduate students Kimber VanSant and Allee Berger. Their Facebook page includes photos from the maligned building's heyday and updates on its plight.
"It's a fascinating story because it came at a time when the city was revolutionizing, reinventing itself," Berger said. "It just screams 'important.' It's significant and if we were to demolish it, then we wouldn't have that pertinent link in Philadelphia's history anymore."
Often misidentified as Brutalist architecture, it lacks that style's rough, angular traits. It has more in common with Marcel Breuer's equally unpopular Housing and Urban Development headquarters in Washington.