Center City: Architecture Program Encourages Residents to Play Active Role in Design

Who doesn’t like free events in Philadelphia where you can get a snack, watch a movie, meet new people, have an intriguing conversation, take a tour or do it all?

Architect John DeFazio, who is a professor at Drexel University, introduces this month's film for the Architecture in Film program at the Philadelphia Center of Architecture.

The Philadelphia Center of Architecture hosts Architecture in Film the first Monday of every month. This event, held at 1218 Arch St., includes a small wine and cheese reception, a movie and a short discussion exploring architectural ideas and themes shown in the film.

David Bender, the coordinator at the Center of Architecture is in charge of managing the facility, which is rented out for private events. His job also entails creating and managing public programs that educate the public on architecture, urban planning and design.

“Our goal is to engage with as many Philadelphians as possible to help them understand the role design plays in their life, especially, the design of their homes, businesses and urban spaces,” Bender said. “They should have an active role on the design aspect of a built environment that affects them daily.”

The Center of Architecture does not design work of its own. Instead the facility serves as a bridge to gap Philadelphians with architecture. The Center provides walking tours, lecture tours and organizes exhibitions that involve the Philadelphia community. It is also home to the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

Architect John DeFazio, who has taught at Drexel University since 1992, runs the Architecture in Film program.

“It is a program that grew out of a course I taught at Drexel,” DeFazio said. “Usually, we get between 15-25 people. There are different types of movies so we attract different groups.”

The series of movies show architecture in a different light because it is practiced to suit the place and clientele. However, the movies “act like literature” because it can become a “character,” DeFazio said.

People wait for the start of the Architecture in Film program at the Center.

“Architecture is usually heroic but sometimes it can be the villain,” DeFazio said. “The villains always have the best modern houses like in James Bond movies.”

DeFazio has not recently designed any building in Philadelphia, but worked for Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates, a Philadelphia-based programming, design and renovation urban planning architectural firm during the 1980s. He currently designs in New York and New Jersey and is most famous for the Tourneau Watch Store, which is now a New York City landmark.

A New York native, DeFazio said he has developed a deep interest for Philadelphian architecture.

“Philadelphia made me see cities again,” DeFazio said. “Unlike New York, Philadelphia has so much of his history still intact. It is much more layered because you can see the growth of the city over time.”

Bender added that Philadelphia2035, the comprehensive plan for the city’s zoning code changes, will take Philadelphia in a positive direction.

“I like that the city is trying to engage its citizens in the design process,” Bender said. “And get the public’s feedback on the master plans from the people who are going to be affected by them.”

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