I awoke this morning to discover that my company had joined the ranks of some of the greatest architects and developers in America who have been criticized by Inquirer architecture critic Inga Saffron ("
," Oct. 26).
Many great buildings, including our own City Hall and Art Museum, faced severe criticism when first unveiled, but Saffron's review of Symphony House went beyond criticism. It was a one-sided, mean-spirited, malicious rant.
Am I to imagine that all of the many sophisticated buyers at Symphony House have bad taste? Should I assume that the zoning officials, the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp. selections committee, our neighbors along the Avenue of the Arts, our governor, senators, mayor and other high-placed civic officials who have called the project "visionary," "brilliant" and "magnificent" also all have bad taste?
Saffron gives no credit whatsoever to a daring plan which made possible the Suzanne Roberts Theatre, two wonderful ground-level restaurants and a grand 32-story structure that fits perfectly next to its neighbors. She gives no credit to the quality of materials and attention to details inside and out, which has so impressed virtually all. Instead, she dwells on minor details like the incredibly beautiful exterior wall sconces being a different finish than window frames.
A project like Symphony House, which has completely transformed South Broad Street and especially the pedestrian-level experience of this previously deserted block, should be applauded as a civic undertaking that brought about virtually an entire new gateway to the Avenue of the Arts.
I am a veteran Philadelphia developer who was born here and have spent my life here, and I have built a reputation over 25 years for developing projects with quality and imagination. We are proud of our track record and the integrity we bring to our business. Above all, we are proud of Symphony House, which is timeless and has contributed so much already to the richness and variety of the Avenue of the Arts.
By attacking those who have praised its design and importance upon the avenue, Saffron misses the fundamental intent of urban design: Buildings are designed for people, not for critics.