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One man’s plea for city to ‘Stop Demolishing Philly’
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One man’s plea for city to ‘Stop Demolishing Philly’

Artist and activist Brad Maule has temporary photography exhibit in Spring Garden

“The greenest building is one that already exists.”

Philadelphia is a historic city. But the city keeps tearing down its buildings, often when renovation plans are already identified.

All across the city buildings are being torn down: South Philly, Germantown, Mount Airy, Center City, Jewelers Row, Fishtown, Kensington, Port Richmond. “Philadelphia brand is history and we’re allowing it to be torn down all over the place for a number of reasons, whether it’s the Tax abatement or general negligence,” said Mount Airy resident and photographer Brad Maule.

For Maule, these demolitions don’t make sense for several reasons: Philadelphia’s history, the environment, and city’s character.

His new exhibit Stop Demolishing Philly shows the demolishions from across the city, complete with addresses and QR codes to learn more about each individual building.

As Maule explained, “Philadelphia didn’t stop in 1776. We were the workshop of the world in the 1800s and a city of homes.”

When buildings are demolished, materials often go to the landfill. Advocates like RePoint Philadelphia suggest that deconstruction (where buildings are savaged for all materials to be reused) should be mandatory in Philadelphia, like it is in Portland, Oregon.

According to RePoint Philadelphia, 543 demolition permits to real estate were issues in 2019. Demolition downfalls include losing culturally and significant places, increased waste, and increased lead levels and airborne particles.

Plus, demolition is often controversial, like the Christian Street Baptist Church that was torn down in 2018 for new townhomes. Neighbors express outcry of the loss of these cultural and historic spaces.

Photographer Brad Maule has documented the various buildings that have been torn down in Philly on Instagram. However, when MMPartners offered to host Maule’s exhibit in one of their spaces, his dream of having an exhibit became a reality.

True to sustainability, Maule used exclusively repurposed frames from flea markets, thrift stores and estate sales across Pennsylvania. Manayunk resident Rachel Isaac mounted and framed all of Maule’s photos for the exhibit.

He also took creative reuse at logos leftover from a national meal-kit company, incorporating them in the exhibit.

stop demolishing philly exhibit by brad maule

Maule is not one shy of social statements through art. After collecting trash in the Wissahickon every week for a year, he gathered his findings and turned it into “One Man’s Trash,” an exhibit at the Fairmount Water Works Museum in 2014.

Maule also shared that exhibit pieces will be available for sale at the end of the show.

See Stop Demolishing Philly

Stop Demolishing Philly is on display through October 2nd; at Security Elevator Co (1640 Fairmount Avenue). Open Thursdays and Fridays from 6-9 PM and Saturdays from 10 AM to 2 PM. Masks required.


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Julie Hancher is Editor-in-Chief of Green Philly, sharing her expertise of all things sustainable in the city of brotherly love. She enjoys long walks in the park with local beer and greening her travels, cooking & cat, Sir Floofus Drake. View all posts by Julie Hancher

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