Thursday, March 9, 2023
10:00 AM - 11:30 AM
Missed it? Watch it HERE.
Missed it? Watch it HERE.
Like other publicly built buildings that have outlived their previous uses, the future of the Roundhouse must be considered in the context of the community in which it sits. Chinatown is an important neighborhood in Philadelphia that has been impacted by many public projects and even private projects, while remaining resilient and improving from its days as an undesirable place with "skid row" extending to Independence Mall. Like any important community, the needs and context of Chinatown deserve to be considered first when considering the future of the Roundhouse. Does the current site and design fit well into the existing urban context or should it be changed? So, to reframe the conversation: How can this site and the Roundhouse best serve the future of the community?
The former Police Administration Building at 7th and Race Streets, known colloquially as The Roundhouse, was conceived in the late 1950s during the progressive administration of Mayor Richardson Dilworth. The city engaged internationally-recognized Philadelphia firm GBQC Architects to design a building that would serve as an icon of modern, democratic, and transparent policing. It is a quintessential example of Philadelphia School modernism, and among the first buildings in the United States to expertly utilize the form and function of precast concrete. Completed in 1962, The Roundhouse soon entered a dark phase due to associations with destructive urban renewal programs and brutal, racist policing. That said, the Roundhouse can and should be repurposed. It is an immense 125,000 sq. ft., multi-floor structure. It is comprised of almost 90% precast concrete, structurally sound, and only sixty years old. To demolish this building would represent a waste of multiple kinds: a waste of durable building materials and their embodied energy; a wasted opportunity to leverage publicly-controlled assets toward better preservation outcomes; a wasted opportunity to model how modernist, buildings can be repurposed and successfully incorporated into larger contemporary projects; and a wasted opportunity to wrestle with and reclaim the building’s unintended legacy as a symbol of police oppression.
The City of Philadelphia will sell the former Police Administration Building, also known as “the Roundhouse.” In 2022, the City worked with a team of public engagement experts. Framing the Future of the Roundhouse is a community engagement project that works to set the stage for the future of the Roundhouse. We acknowledge that a reimagination of the site alone cannot wholly repair the legacies of systemic racism, police brutality, and urban renewal. However, we are working to build a bridge from the past into a more inclusive future by positioning stakeholders as active participants and amplifying perspectives that have historically been excluded from planning and design processes. Check out the future Roundhouse's website here!
Ian Litwin, Project Manager, Framing the Future of the Roundhouse