Hidden City Preview Party

“Old ideas can sometimes use new buildings. New ideas must use old buildings.”

– Jane Jacobs


Hidden City Preview PresentationThe Hidden City Philadelphia (HCP) team convened last Sunday with an official preview party to provide dinner guests with an intimate overview of their 2013 festival schedule. Held at The Philadelphia Water Works on the banks of the Schuylkill, the preview party offered guests a chance to collectively revel in the building anticipation of the Hidden City Festival starting Thursday, May 23.

The Philadelphia Water Works Restaurant proved an appropriate space to celebrate the previewing of the 2013 festivities. Beginning the evening’s presentation, restaurant owner and HCP supporter Michael Karloutsos described how the “Philadelphia Water Works Restaurant is the poster child for hidden city” - a once vacant building whose master renovation started with a dream.

Following Karloutsos’ introduction speech, Hidden City’s Lee Tusman (Creative Director) and Thaddeus Squire (Founder and Creative Strategist) outlined the festival’s schedule for the coming six weeks. Speaking on the mission of Hidden City, Thaddeus offered three very simple elements that the festival has evolved to embody - to inspire people to be curious about their city, to move citizens into falling in love with their city’s stories, and to lead people into action, getting involved in redeveloping cultural and architectural gems. Four of the nine project sites displayed in the Hidden City Philly 2009 Festival have been successfully reclaimed from neglect, returning as functioning buildings for their local communities.

Exploring the NatatoriumThe attendance on Sunday night included a mix of community visionaries. Among them were architects, artist collectives, private developers, historic preservationists, hip restaurateurs and local neighborhood champions - all people who share the common interest of experiencing Philadelphia’s rich built narratives through the imaginations of locally and nationally acclaimed artists. Following the festival’s preview presentation, guests were lead to one of the festival’s nine sites, The Kelly Natatorium. Built in conjunction with the nation’s first municipal water system, the space that eventually became a swimming pool closed in 1972 after flooding from Hurricane Agnes.

The artist collective, Camp Little Hope, offered party guests an intimate historical account of the natatorium space. The collective will be transforming the space into an educational water saloon, relating the building’s history of contaminated water quality to the current green water infrastructure and water treatment initiatives of the city. In this way, the collective is enacting Jane Jacob’s “old building” wisdom, offering a preview of the abundant educational opportunities embedded in historically and culturally rich abandonment.

Visit hiddencityphila.org for more info or to purchase tickets.

ANDREW SCHLESINGER is a passionate environmental thinker and designer. He can be contacted at andrewpschlesinger@gmail.com