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The Slinky, born in Philadelphia 70 years ago

Turns out the Slinky, a staple of childhood for decades, was invented in the City of Brotherly Love. The New York Times looks back at its genesis. 

The Slinky, which first appeared in the Gimbels department store in Philadelphia 70 years ago this month, didn’t start out as a toy.

A mechanical engineer at a shipyard in Philadelphia, Richard James, was trying to come up with an anti-vibration device for ship instruments.

He knocked some springs off a desk and was startled when they took slinking steps, almost as if they were strolling away. He saw their potential as a plaything.

The simplicity of a Slinky belies its scientific complexity.

Each ring of a slinking Slinky is pulled up by another and pulled down by gravity in equal amounts.

Try holding the top of a Slinky, while letting the bottom dangle over a step. The bottom of a Slinky doesn’t move until you let go and the top of the Slinky comes down and is completely compressed.

Astronauts on the shuttle Discovery in 1985 found that the Slinky did not behave in weightlessness the way it does on Earth.
One astronaut said: “It sort of droops.”

More than 300 million Slinkys have been sold since Mr. James and his wife, Betty, demonstrated the toy at Gimbels.

Original source: The New York Times
Read the complete story here

LEGO Vatican wows at the Franklin Institute

It's Pope madness -- and the Franklin Institute is getting into the act.

The city's science museum was hosting a blockbuster exhibit of Lego sculptures and preparing to unveil a huge display of Holy See treasures for the pope's upcoming visit when administrators got a serendipitous inquiry.

Would they like to see a model of the Vatican that a priest built entirely of Legos?

"It's amazing," said Larry Dubinski, president and CEO of The Franklin Institute, where the plastic brick structure is now on view in downtown Philadelphia. "People are in awe."

The Rev. Bob Simon spent about 10 months constructing a mini St. Peter's Basilica out of a half-million Legos. His architectural feat includes a Lego pope on a balcony overlooking the crowd in St. Peter's Square, which itself is made up of about 44,000 Lego pieces resembling cobblestones.

A colorful cast of Lego characters populates the piazza, including a nun with a selfie stick and a bespectacled figurine of Simon. All told, the display measures 14 feet by 6 feet and weighs about 100 pounds.

Original source: Associated Press via The New York Times
Read the complete story here

Philly schools make list of top spots for aspiring famous fashion designers

Business of Fashion has released Global Fashion School Rankings, and the New York Times parses the list.

...the BoF one, which has a pretty rigorous and transparen tmethodology, is worth reading — both because of what its sheer existence says about the importance of fashion education and how it may no longer be the sad stepchild of arts college programs, but also because of the schools that make the list.

Some of them may surprise you. They surprised me, and, it seems, even the editors at BoF who compiled the ranking. “Perhaps the most surprising outcome of our Global Fashion School Rankings was the outstanding feedback from students and alumni from schools off the beaten path, suggesting that prospective students may want to carefully consider a wider range of colleges when making decisions about higher education in fashion,” wrote the editors Imran Amed and Robin Mellery-Pratt in an accompanying op-ed.

So what were these unexpected institutions?

In the undergraduate list, Central St. Martins (C.S.M.) was top, as you might expect, but Kingston University, near London, was No. 3, and Drexel University in Philadelphia was No. 10. Philadelphia University was No. 16, and the University for the Creative Arts, in Epsom, England, was No. 17. Pratt, by contrast, was 21.

Original source: The New York Times
Read the complete story here

The New York Times highlights SoNo development, office space for millenials

This ambitious project between Chinatown and Northern Liberties looks to attract young workers.

The 250,000-square-foot building, now occupied by a distributor of maternity clothing, will be remade into a center for media, advertising and technology companies, under plans recently announced by the developer, Alliance Partners HSP.

The building, in an industrial zone between Philadelphia’s Chinatown and the rapidly developing Northern Liberties neighborhood, will be reconfigured at a cost of about $50 million into space expected to accommodate up to eight tenants employing a total of 1,000 to 1,500 workers in an open-plan arrangement, the developer said...

The project aims to tap into an influx of millennials — those born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s — who are being drawn to Philadelphia by growing job opportunities and housing that, for now, is more affordable than that in Washington or New York.

The city is also retaining more local university students who are staying after graduation in response to the growing job market, greater availability of housing, improved amenities such as public parks, and a vibrant downtown restaurant scene.

By creating the new space on the southern edge of the already millennial-rich Northern Liberties and within a 20-minute walk of City Hall, Alliance believes it will be well positioned to attract tenants that employ the targeted work force...

Mr. Previdi said the new space — named SoNo, for south of Northern Liberties — will be designed to encourage the collaboration that is highly valued by tenants like software companies. “They want everybody talking; they want everybody sharing ideas,” he said.

The redesign will minimize the amount of individual employee space while allowing more for common areas like a cafeteria, a gym and parking space for 70 bicycles. Alliance plans to begin construction by the end of this year, and to complete the project within 24 months.

Original source: The New York Times
Read the complete story here.

Petty Island fantasy courtesy of the Better Philadelphia Challenge

Could an overlooked island in the Delaware connect Philadelphia and Camden?

Can an obscure, uninhabited, 292-acre island that sits in the Delaware River between Philadelphia and Camden be knitted into the urban fabric of those cities? One team of designers recently concocted a long-term development plan that would take rural cues — and also considers challenges such as food insecurity and rising sea levels — to do just that...

The group won the annual Better Philadelphia Challenge, which is presented by the Philadelphia Center for Architecture and open to university-level students. The competition looks for a solution to an actual urban-design issue in Philadelphia, with the hope that the resulting ideas could be applied to other cities. This year, applicants were asked to imagine ways to develop Petty Island, which most Philadelphians aren’t even aware exists but which claims a colorful history.

Hanifin and his teammates Akshali Gandhi, Li-Yu Pan, Chen Sun and Lishutong Zhang — all master degree candidates in either landscape architecture or regional planning — came up with a thoughtful vision for both short-term and long-term development of the island and the facing Philadelphia waterfront, with a focus on addressing issues of food insecurity, urban farming and agricultural education. The Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger estimates that in 2013, 22 percent of city residents experienced food insecurity.

The team’s winning multiphase proposal, dubbed “Delaware Valley Foodworx,” includes an agricultural college, seed bank, sky farm, discovery center and farmers’ market on the island. 

Original source: Next City
Read the complete story here

Knight Cities Challenge finalists announced, including 20 from Philadelphia

The Knight Cities Challenge has announced its finalists, including a healthy list from Philadelphia.

How do you choose 126 good ideas for cities from the more than 7,000 proposals submitted to the first Knight Cities Challenge?
It wasn’t easy.  But, as of today, we’ve asked 126 happy finalists to submit final applications in three weeks with more details about their ideas.

It’s an exciting time for them but also for us at Knight Foundation. It is a privilege to meet so many people who are passionate about their communities and who are working to make them better. Soon, we’ll have plans and budgets and bios that we and our reviewers will pore over to make the even tougher decision about which applicants become Knight Cities Challenge winners...

We identified the biggest category of finalists as projects that sought to bring public life back to public spaces with almost 24 percent of the total. That was followed by supporting a changing urban economy, 20 percent; promoting a robust civic life, 17 percent; building connections between diverse communities, 11 percent; changing the stories communities tell about themselves, 11 percent; reimagining civic assets, such as libraries, parks, trails and school grounds, 10 percent; and retaining talent, 7 percent. Seeing these themes emerge, we are so excited to learn more about what the challenge finalists are planning...

In three weeks the final applications will be in, and we will announce the winners, who will receive a share of $5 million, before April 1. 

Source: The Knight Foundation
Check out the complete list here.

Wharton student -- and founder of four companies by age 21 -- reflects

The New York Times spoke with Daniel Fine, a serial entrepreneur and Wharton student who's staying in school.

Daniel Fine is the founder and chief executive of Glass-U, a two-year-old, 10-employee maker of foldable sunglasses bearing the licensed brands of universities, music festivals like Lollapalooza, and the World Cup soccer tournament last summer. He arranges for the manufacture of the glasses in China and their distribution around the country. He’s also a senior in college.

Mr. Fine financed Glass-U, which operates out of off-campus housing, in part with proceeds from a tutoring company, NexTutors, that he started right after high school. He has also founded Fine Prints, a custom apparel company he started during high school, and Dosed, a health care technology company that is working on a smartphone app to help diabetics...

Q. You considered applying for a Thiel Fellowship, a $100,000 grant to forgo college and pursue your dream?
A. I made it through the second round, but I didn’t complete my application. At Penn, I’ve absolutely learned in the classroom, but it’s been a much greater benefit being here and growing as a person and learning who I am, what I’m becoming and what I’m hoping to be.

Original source: The New York Times
Read the complete story here.

Gorgeous Wyncote rain garden becomes a teachable moment

Mary E. Myers, a landscape architect and associate professor at Temple University, created a lush rain garden in suburban Philadelphia. Folks in the neighborhood have taken notice. 

"I wanted to increase biodiversity, but I wanted it to be aesthetically appealing, so that people would accept it and want to do it," said Ms. Myers, 62, standing by the sweep of blue mistflowers rolling down to the sidewalk. "People walk by and say, 'What’s that? It’s beautiful.'"

She often gives them some seeds or self-seeded native plants. And when someone from down the street longs for those blue mistflowers, she says, "Don’t worry, the wind will bring them to you."

With the shapes, colors and textures of more than 50 native species here — the elegant branching of the young black gum tree, the dogwood and shadbush turning deep red, the handsome seed heads of hibiscus, the fig-like fruits of the bottlebrush buckeye — this dynamic landscape is nothing like the scruffy patches of weeds too often referred to as rain gardens.

As Ms. Myers said, "It looks intentional and maintained..."

She counted 23 species when they moved in, 16 of them nonnative. Now the count is up to 127, most of them native.

Original source: The New York Times
Read the complete story here.

Want a 'Lord of the Rings'-style map of Philadelphia?

PA resident Stentor Danielson creates super-cool maps of major American cities -- including Philadelphia -- in the style of fantasy author J.R.R. Tolkien.

In addition to his de riguer Etsy store, a seeming must for endeavors of this nature, Danielson also maintains a densely-illustrated Tumblr called Mapsburgh, where he showcases his own work as well as that of other fantasy-minded artists and creators of odd, impractical things. There, brave travelers will get some brief, telling glimpses into the mapmaker’s creative process, which seems to exist at the nexus of fandom and fetishism. A specifically-cited source of inspiration for Danielson, for instance, is this map of Middle Earth from the Ballatine paperback edition of Tolkien’s Lord Of The Rings.

A faculty member at Pennsylvania’s Slippery Rock University, Danielson works with pen and ink and, on occasion, cut paper to create his otherworldly "cartographic art" of quite-worldly places like Boston and Washington, D.C. The artist, who describes his work as "delicate" (read: alarmingly fragile), also takes requests.

Original source: The A.V. Club
Read the complete story here; and click here for Danielson's Etsy store.

The reinvention of Conshohocken

The New York Times takes a look at Conshohocken, a steel town turned office hub -- and millennial magnet.

The recent increase in development plans reflects the geographical advantages of Conshohocken, which is near the intersection of Interstates 76 and 476, its accessibility to central Philadelphia by commuter rail and the availability of its land, in contrast to some nearby western suburbs where land for development is scarce.

With its location at the intersection of interstates, Conshohocken could become the region’s new “Main and Main,” said Jeffrey E. Mack, executive managing director at Newmark Grubb Knight Frank, an international real estate firm that provides brokerage and other services.

He argued that the town was poised to take the title from an area at Route 1 and City Line Avenues on Philadelphia’s western outskirts, which has been heavily built. That location, in Lower Merion Township, “ran out of land,” he said.

The prospect of a big addition in local office space also reflects a desire by companies to attract educated employees in their mid-20s to mid-30s who are expected to seek jobs in industries such as technology, finance or health care but who do not want a traditional suburban lifestyle.

“Those folks want to live in new urban-type environments where the amenities and the urban setting and the transit orientation are also important,” said Steve Spaeder, senior vice president for development at Equus Capital Partners, developer of the 400 West Elm project. “Conshohocken has all of those elements.”

Original source: The New York Times
Read the complete story here.

Could 'America's Best Restroom' be right in our backyard?

Longwood Gardens is a finalist in Cinta's 'America's Best Restroom' contest -- vote now!

The public restrooms at Longwood Gardens, the most visited public garden in America, deserve a double-take as you walk by. That’s because the 17 restrooms themselves are part of the largest indoor "Green Wall" in North America!

The staff at Longwood worked with artist Kim Wilkie on an unprecedented feat of bathroom architecture. Take a look at the photos, and you’ll understand. Aside from the restrooms’ lush greenery, they also feature domed, naturally lit lavatory cabinets hidden within the "Green Wall." In addition, each restroom contains etched translucent glass at the top of the dome to provide natural light, reduce electricity and minimize the need for light fixtures.

Longwood Gardens traces its roots to the famed du Pont family and has become preeminent for its grand collection of plant life. Now, its restrooms also share in the spotlight.

"The restrooms at Longwood have become a ‘must-see’ for our one million annual visitors, and we even have docents nearby to share the story of their creation," says Patricia Evans, communications manager at Longwood Gardens. "To be named America’s Best Restroom would be a testament to our creativity and environmental stewardship."

Via Curbed Philly; check out their coverage of this amazing bathroom.

Original source: Cinta

Check out the jaw-dropping Penn's Landing feasibility study

Last week, we wrote about the ambitious new plans fomenting for Penn's Landing and the rest of the Delaware Waterfront. Now, check out the awesome, inspiring feasibility study complete with renderings.

Original source: Delaware River Waterfront; HT PlanPhilly
Check out the whole document here.

Curbed Philly seeks new editor

The real estate-centric site Curbed Philly is hiring a new editor.

We're looking for a real estate obsessive to keep Philly apprised of all the good neighborhood news and development gossip on a daily basis. While you don't need to be a real estate expert, it helps to be completely fixated on architecture, city planning, and all the only-in-Philly weirdness that makes this place so great. Think you're up to the task?

Click through for more details.

Original source: Curbed Philly


Philadelphia hosts world's largest game of Tetris

A Drexel professor and his students hacked the lighting system of the 29-story Cira Center, allowing them to play Tetris on the building's facade.

 Check out the video here.

Original source: The New York Times

Local 'Project Runway' winner Dom Streater shows at New York Fashion Week

Project Runway winner (and Philly resident) Dom Streater exhibited a colorful collection at New York Fashion Week -- her first show since her victory.

The luminous, naturally lit whitewashed studio was precisely scattered with models donning Streater’s blooming bright pieces. It was a particularly cold windy day in the Big Apple, but these garments seemed to be projecting their own sort of sunshine. In the months between earning her fashion fame and displaying her newest collection, 25-year-old Dom has managed to quit her waitressing job at Silk City Diner – that supported her fashion ventures – and settle into a place of her own; a studio apartment on Pine Street in Center City...

The foundation of Streater’s clothing was unapologetically girly. The palette offered shades of red, pink, black and gray that were arranged in custom floral-inspired patterns, both on their own or placed with a solid color. These custom patterns, a skill that crowned her Runway queen, are what made her collection a standout.

Here's a preview of the collection.

Original source: The Philadelphia Inquirer
Read the complete story and check out the pictures here.
143 design Articles | Page: | Show All
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