Record Reveals: Denise E. Thompson on Philadelphia
In preparation for the 2016 AIA Convention, Architectural Record asks local architects about their Philadelphia favorites.
Denise E. Thompson, AIA, LEED AP BD+C
Associate, Francis Cauffman
President, AIA Philadelphia Chapter
Denise E. Thompson, AIA, LEED AP BD+C is a Massachusetts native and 2002 B.Arch. graduate of Temple University. Denise is an associate at Francis Cauffman in Philadelphia where she has worked since 2003 focusing on health care design. She has also been an active volunteer in the AIA since 2005 starting as the state associate director to the AIAPA Board of Directors and continuing on to be the Pennsylvania representative on the AIA National Associates Committee and Young Architects Forum. Denise currently serves as the AIA Philadelphia President for 2016.
Best New Architecture
I believe there are so many amazing new buildings in the city and surrounding region at the moment, but my personal favorite is Pavilion & Children's Discovery Garden at Sister Cities Park by DIGSAU. The way this building activates a formerly deserted park area into one of the most family friendly environments in the city is to be commended. I also appreciate the sustainable and contemporary design decisions that were made for this 2012 building despite its sensitive location in front of the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter & Paul completed in 1864.
Best Historic Architecture
This is the hardest question because Philadelphia has such an amazing architectural history, but to narrow it down I would have to say my favorites are City Hall, Reading Terminal Trainshed, and American Academy of Music. All buildings are beautiful examples of excellence in design for their time period and function. All of them in their own way remind me of the European influences that were so strong in forming the cultural foundation of Philadelphia and America.
Best Restaurants and Bars
It would be a missed opportunity if those attending the convention did not head across the street to Reading Terminal Market for the unique (and crowded) lunch experience that it is, offering every Philadelphia staple from scrapple to Cheesesteaks.
For more fine dining, there are so many amazing restaurants but by favorites are Talulah’s Table on Washington Square and Osteria on North Broad street.
Any architect would be crazy to not be in love with the Loews Philadelphia Hotel which is located in the iconic PSFS building. This monument to the International style was the first such skyscraper in America. The views from the former boardroom on the top floor are amazing, and the thoughtful renovations a few years back are consistent with the original design intent. I also have a soft spot for Hotel Palomar because it is located in the Architects Building. This was the former home of the AIA Chapter and Bookstore, and the decision to renovate the building—and many other buildings in the city—into hotels in lieu of demolishing them is commendable by the Kimpton Brand who has done that twice in the city.
Best Museums and Galleries
If you only have time to see one museum while here it has to be the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It is such an impressive collection and piece of architecture itself that I believe is should be worth not just running up the steps but entering through the doors as well.
If you don’t quite have time for such a large museum, the smaller Rodin Museum is beautiful inside and out with the largest collection of Rodin sculptures outside of Paris.
While on the Parkway the newest museum added to the must see list is the Barnes Foundation museum. The architecture and the story of how this museum came to be are just as fascinating as the art itself.
Easiest question by far: The AIA Bookstore is the best shopping experience for all your design related books, children’s toys, and gifts. We have recently renovated the Center for Architecture across the street from the convention center, and our thoughtfully curated store focuses on locally made products that highlights Philadelphia and our rich design culture.
I want to let everyone attending the convention know that the Center for Architecture (across the street from the convention center, as noted above) will be open as a lounge throughout the entire convention. We will be giving away coffee in the mornings and hosting happy hours in the evenings. There is a new special exhibit for the convention as well as a place to relax, meet with old friends and new, and learn about all the amazing things we are doing as AIA Philadelphia and a strong design community in the city and surrounding region.