Context - Winter 2015 - (Page 12)
Romaldo Giurgola, FAIA, who has recently turned 95 and has lived
in Australia for the last 33 years, was a key figure in the story of
Philadelphia's mid-century architecture. His notable buildings include
the Penn Mutual Insurance Company on Independence Square, the
United Fund headquarters on the Parkway, the (now demolished)
Liberty Bell Pavilion on Independence Mall, and the Parliament House
in Canberra, Australia.
A graduate of the Sapienza University of Rome and Columbia, he
came to Philadelphia in 1954 to teach at Penn, where, together with the
older Louis Kahn and younger Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown, he
helped to establish what Jan Rowan would call the "Philadelphia School."
But while it was widely recognized that ideas from Philadelphia helped
to transform the practice of modern architecture in the 1950s-1970s,
these Philadelphians shared only a few general philosophical principles
and a handful of stylistic mannerisms.
Daniel Kelley, FAIA, came to work with Mitchell/Giurgola in 1980
and is the senior principal at MGA Partners, one of several successor
firms. In a wide-ranging interview with David Brownlee in September,
he discussed the work of Aldo Giurgola and helped to map the currents of architectural thinking and practice in Philadelphia at that time.
DB: When did you first hear of Giurgola, and what
did you hear?
DK: By 1973, while I was studying at Georgia Tech, I was aware of Kahn's
and Giurgola's works. From the designs I saw published, it seemed that
these men were saying something different about contemporary architecture that was outside of doctrinaire modernism. I imagined that there
might be a new relevance, perhaps something more essential, about
the work being done in Philadelphia instead of New York or elsewhere.
DB: I know you continued your education with
an MArch at Harvard, and in 1980 you came to
Philadelphia to join your wife, who was studying
at the Wharton School. Kahn had died in 1974,
leaving Venturi/Scott Brown and Mitchell/Giurgola
at the head of your list of top-tier architects. How
did you choose?
Mitchell/giurgola: united Way headquarters, completed 1971
WINTER 2016 | context | AIA Philadelphia
DK: I was a young man who liked to make things, and I had the impression that the Mitchell/Giurgola firm, while having thoughtful and artistic
intentions for everything they touched, emphasized architecture as their
medium. I was more attracted to that than to the Venturi firm, where I
was less likely to appreciate the narratives that accompanied their work.
It was thrilling to interview at Mitchell/Giurgola on the 26th floor of
PSFS - and I immediately saw them as a cohesive studio that produced
sophisticated designs with an integrity that I admired.
ON ROMALDO GIURGOLA AND THE PHILADELPHIA SCHOOL
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Context - Winter 2015
Philadelphia’s Everyday Modernism
Truly and Unobtrusively Modern: Chestnut Hill Architecture of the Twentieth Century
2015 Design Awards
Index to Advertisers
Context - Winter 2015