The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Nov 28, 2012

Mounted camera allows views of daily progress at Dilworth Plaza in anticipation of the arrival of ‘Pulse’

Posted by Valerie Nahmad

By Linda Harris, Center City District

At Dilworth Plaza this month crews are framing in the 500-square-foot water reservoir and are reviewing the additional components for a mid-2013 installation of compressed air lines, pumps, valves, lighting and controls that will make possible the colorful steam mists of Janet Echelman’s specially commissioned public sculpture, Pulse, which will animate the surface of the new Dilworth Plaza on the west side of City Hall.

Thanks to a camera perched atop Centre Square East at 1500 Market Street, anyone who is interested can go to the Center City District’s website and follow in real time the progress of construction.  Centre Square, across the street from Dilworth Plaza and City Hall, is a two-building office tower that is famous for its companion 45-foot, steel Clothespin, a sculpture created by Claes Oldenburg and installed in 1976.  So along with City Hall’s 250 sculptures by Alexander Milne Calder and his  37-foot-tall statue of William Penn, Echelman’s public sculpture will be in quite excellent company.

Artist’s rendering of Janet Echelman’s sculpture Pulse.

Much of the work at Dilworth Plaza continues to be underground, but some things soon will be notable above ground. For example in January, February and March, giant steel beams will arrive, which will be supporting the upper plaza area. As more of the construction activity moves to the surface of the plaza, the camera shots will become more dramatic in their documentation of progress. The camera is courtesy of CommonWealth REIT and the camera shots can be  found here.

A prototype of Echelman’s Pulse is expected to arrive sometime early in the new year. Using five-foot-tall, moving columns of atomized water, Pulse will reflect in real time the movements of the transportation systems below, using the designated colors of SEPTA’s transit lines that carry workers, residents and visitors throughout the city via the City Hall hub.

Commissioned by the Center City District, Echelman’s work will create both a playful and animated embellishment on the fountain for this transportation hub at the center of a system that brings 300,000 passengers into Center City each day. The installation of Pulse will ensure that the $50 million transformation of Dilworth Plaza will become a memorable public space, thanks to support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The $400,000 grant to the Center City District, which will enable the installation of Echelman’s sculpture, is part of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation’s Knight Arts Challenge, a $9 million initiative funding innovative projects that engage and enrich Philadelphia’s communities. Construction on Dilworth Plaza began in January 2012, and will be completed in spring 2014. The plaza will be transformed from an inaccessible, multi-level, unattractive, hard-surface plaza into a sustainable, well-maintained, green public space with no stairs or barriers from the street. The new plaza will have a large lawn, tree groves, a programmable fountain showcasing Echelman’s artwork, and a café with outdoor seating.

The Center City District, a private-sector organization dedicated to making Center City Philadelphia clean, safe and attractive, is committed to maintaining Center City’s competitive edge as a regional employment center, a quality place to live, and a premier regional destination for dining, shopping and cultural attractions. Find us at, Facebook, and Twitter @ccdphila. For photos, videos, and more information about Dilworth Plaza and Janet Echelman’s artwork, please click here.

A live camera atop Centre Square East enables you to watch the construction progress in real time.

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