Proposal Integrating New Functions Into Old Silo Is Too Frenetic For Philadelphia

granary exterior image

Image credit ISA

The Silo Effect is the business jargon term du jour, referring to a lack of communication between different departments. Now Best of Green Interface Studio Architects demonstrates the real thing, converting silos to rock climbing gyms, water cisterns, air tempering, and even art galleries. On top of the studios, they add 110 residential units. So far so good, but then they write:

The project questions traditional attitudes toward preservation and asserts the need to integrate new projects will old structures in order to fully realize their mutual productive futures.
isa granary detail image

Image credit ISA

As a heritage activist, I immediately took issue with this. What are they questioning? Do they think preservationists insist that buildings be preserved in amber and left in their original state? When it comes to industrial uses like grain silos, preservationists all over the world are looking for creative adaptive reuse. The fact that they are so solid, so strong makes them great candidates for additions on top as ISA proposes.

vinyl addition image

image credit Inhabitat

In Toronto, Manuel Gross, Patrik Staub, Yannick Vorberg and Stefan Vetsch won a competition to build a vinyl addition to silos for the upcoming Pan American Games. Preservationists have been touting the possibilities of reusing these silos for years. While some like me might decry the use of vinyl, nobody is complaining about the idea of an addition.

music city image

Also in Toronto, Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg designed Metronome, a music museum, built inside and on top of another set of silos.

granary image

Image credit ISA

But not every silo is the same, nor are all preservationists in the same silo. In Philadelphia, the Preservation Alliance determined that "The proposed tower would irrevocable compromise the building's historic and design integrity, reducing its unique massing into an anonymous foundation for a frenetic new tower."


Inga Saffron, the Inquirer's architectural critic, noted positively:

Viewed purely as an architectural thought experiment, Phillips' concept is as exciting as anything Philadelphia has seen in years. The design would turn a vacant building into a hive of activity, setting the stage for the neighborhood's transformation.

But she then turns on the project, concluding:

The addition would effectively obliterate the granary's profile from the skyline. That's too great a loss to justify a clever new design.

Which I suppose goes to prove that heritage is complicated. The lower silos are now going to be converted to apartments, eliminating the opportunity to use the dramatic spaces in such clever ways. But the dramatic top of the building will be preserved as an icon on the skyline. Tough call; one can only say that there are silos and there are silos; there are preservationists and there are preservationists.

More at ISA
More on ISA:
Best of Green: Design and Architecture
Interface Studio Builds Modular Student Residence
100K House From Postgreen Wins LEED Project of the Year

Follow me on Twitter! @lloydalter and friend me on Facebook

Related Content on