Ghost House

Paper Abstract:

Its presence looms large over the gridded city yet tourists ask time and time again, “Where is it?” Hidden from view it begs to be discovered but its silhouette deceives. Landlocked in the fabric of an old neighborhood, it is both artifact and abstraction. "Ghost House" is an architecture of art and history, a landmark that continues the reading of the past.

Ghost House is a memorial to Benjamin Franklin and the house he built for himself in 1763 on the same site in Philadelphia. The memorial was designed in 1976 by Venturi Scott Brown & Associates and consists of an abstracted steel frame that follows the outline of Benjamin Franklin’s original house. The plan of the house is represented in the paving materials of the court. White marble suggests the interior walls and gray slate the space between. Raised planters and steps provide places for the public to congregate, rest and contemplate. Smooth faced concrete viewing portals are superimposed over the court marking locations of previous archeological sites below.

As a memorial, Ghost House is loaded with historical significance. It suggests the architecture of the Revolutionary period, the influence of Benjamin Franklin and the complex history of the United States. As a work of architecture, however, its significance is much subtler but nonetheless profound. Ghost House revolutionized how we perceive history and marked a turning point in the design of representative structures. Rather than reconstructing from inadequate historical documents, its constructed silhouette allows the viewer to read his or her own interpretation of what once was, as if to admit the unstable soil on which the foundations of historical reconstruction rest. The design is a quintessential work of the post-modern era in its imaginative dialogue with both historicist and modernist principles.

Yale School of Architecture

Spring 2015

Writing on Architecture with

Professor Carter Wiseman