With the Olympic flag leaving our shores and making its journey to Rio, I can’t help but think about Philadelphia. The good folks at Buzz Paradise invited me out to the city Fresh Prince calls home; otherwise known as Philly. Considering its walkable centre and the ever French-esque feel, its easy for me to comprehend why Philadelphia is the 5th most populous city in the United States. There is more public art there than any other city in the country, thousands of beautiful murals around town and not to mention the prominent skateboard scene which for a brit like me, makes me in awe of everyone who lives there.
The Continental Mid-town, the shrimp salad was impeccable.
After an 8 hour flight from gloomy London, it was refreshing to worry about sun cream rather than umbrellas. A swift check-in to the French luxury chain, the Sofitel and a quick introduction to the Philadelphian team it quickly sunk in, the next three days would be filled with rich history, amazing architecture and art art art!
First stop was the new house of the late Albert Barnes’ impecable art collection. I thought I understood art but I had no idea, housing the largest collection of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist and early modern paintings this was a real eye opener. From the Picassos, Renoirs to Cézannes this new building is designed as the exact layout as the original gallery to the stone that was just outside Philadelphia with the addition of classrooms and some garden space.
The Barnes Foundation – One of 23 rooms with an equally idiosyncratic layout.
One thing that you’ll notice about Philadelphia is that they embrace culture and promote art and I’m not talking about multi-million dollar paintings but the voice of communities. Programs such as the ‘Percent of Art ordinance’ lobbied in 1959 is one of the reasons that even within a distance as small as a square mile you’ll find yourself staring at a piece of public art funded by a percentage of a local business building. This is like the city’s answer to graffiti, rather than spending millions of public earnings to remove what is arguably still art, they elect local artists from their respective communities and commission a mural in their neighbourhood something that would be respected and accepted. Its one of the reasons I think if you vaguely like Berlin, you’ll love Philadelphia.
Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens – Isaiah Zagar’s mosaicked visionary on South St.
At this point in the trip, everything felt like a crash course. If I was to put it in perspective, a 20 minute cycle (its a cycle friendly city for all you hipsters) would literally be the definition of a city crash course, there is soo much you can do; from hosting some of America’s sacred sites like Liberty Bell and Independence Hall to the new Kimmel Centre for Performing Arts and maybe a break for some food at Reading Terminal Market (Philly is Cheesesteak Capital after all!!) its an effortlessly entertaining city.
Easily one of my favourite parts of the trip has to be driving out to Longwood Gardens for a private viewing and dinner with English lighting designer and creator Bruce Munro. We were lucky to be shown around his new installation by the man himself and understand the concept first hand. Surrounded by something like 11,000 different types of plants, slap up meal and work by a truly extraordinary designer, he’s work was fitting to an exquisite setting. It’s amazing the sheer emotion his work had on the majority of the group and that was apparent by the jaw-dropping silence as we walked through the gardens.
Longwood Gardens – One of Munro’s pieces in effect.
It’s fair to say Philadelphia is no New York, but what’s New York to Philadelphia? A mere 50 minutes separating the two cities, its understandable why there is a growing number of Yorkers packing up and heading to the ‘city of brotherly love’. Wether its a trip to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts or crossing the road to head into Macy’s (no shopping tax either) for residents of the big apple its the perfect weekend getaway and for tourists call it the best 7 day ‘petrol stop’ between Washington and New York.