precedent: FRANKLIN COURT, (A SERIES OF) MONUMENTS TO BENJAMIN FRANKLIN

Title: Franklin Court

Authors: Venturi Scott Brown and Associates

Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Year complete: 1976

Description: A memorial “ghost” complex of structures dedicated to American patriot Benjamin Franklin

Located at the site where American patriot Benjamin Franklin had his Philadelphia residence from 173 until his death in 1790, Franklin Court is a memorial complex of a museum, structures and a historic site dedicated to Benjamin Franklin.  The National Park Service and Independence National Historic Park commissioned the project and the complex was designed by Venturi Scott Brown and Associates.  The site consists of archaeological remnants of the Benjamin Franklin House, a “ghost” reconstruction of the form of the house and a print shop as well as an underground museum for Franklin.

Most notable of the project is the two ghost structures, built out of 3D tubular steel-frames painted white.  There were no complete records of the buildings’ structure and layout so Venturi Scott Brown decided to merely recreate and suggest the outlines of the two buildings instead of opting for a Disneyland ideal of “period specific” architecture.  The structures contained viewing wells above the underground museum, allowing visitors the chance to see the archaeological remains of the original buildings. 

Through this design, the firm was able to reveal the site’s historical and aesthetic authenticities through real and exaggerated elements.  They resist the They never confuse the past with the present; they allow visitors an open-ended experience of history, memory and time.  This project is a successful example of architecture’s ability to shape what we see, how we feel and what we know. 

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