The Pasts and Futures of the Roundhouse

Beth Sholom Synagogue

8231 Old York Rd
Elkins Park, PA
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Philadelphia’s Police Administration Building (1959-63, Robert Geddes) is a boldly sculptural, structurally expressive example of the variety of Mid-century Modernism that was called the “Philadelphia School.” It was created by Richardson Dilworth, the reform-minded mayor who moved many city services to new homes and away from Philadelphia’s Victorian City Hall, the symbol of what a turn-of-the century muckraker had called a “corrupt and contented” city. 

But for many of today’s Philadelphians, the building, whose geometry earned it the nickname “the Roundhouse,” is not associated with Dilworth and reform but with the reign of Frank Rizzo, Philadelphia’s Police Commissioner in 1967-71 and mayor in 1972-1980. Rizzo’s racist policing and politicking scarred Philadelphians and disgraced their city.

What are the possible futures for a building with such a complicated past?  To discuss this problem—and probably not to solve it--this panel brings together a city official whose department will set the parameters for the future of the building, a leader of the community that adjoins the site, an accomplished facilitator of civic engagement, and the director of programming at another monument with a challenging history.