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

Dec 13, 2012

Thriving Center City offers Janet Echelman’s ‘Pulse’ increased prominence

Posted by Valerie Nahmad

By Linda Harris, Center City Philadelphia

For the first time in 60 years, Philadelphia’s population recently increased, with downtown neighborhoods growing by 16.3% in the last decade, according to the U.S. Census. Center City now has 181,000 residents  and hosts 265,000 workers daily. Another indication of Center City’s vitality is the rebound in house prices. City house prices increased 7.6% in 2012, while house prices in the Center City core increased 13%.

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

In addition, within one mile of City Hall, Center City has more than 8.5 times the number of workers as King of Prussia Mall in the western Pennsylvania suburbs and more than 18.5 times the number of workers as Cherry Hill Mall to the east in suburban South Jersey, making Center City an important retail center. Given the growing importance of quality public spaces to both workers and residents, the new Dilworth Plaza on the west side of City Hall takes on even greater importance in the fifth largest city in the country with the third largest residential downtown.

Janet Echelman’s much-anticipated public sculpture, Pulse, will be showcased at Dilworth Plaza, which will make it a destination, in addition to being the centerpiece of a well-traveled transit hub. The Center City District featured Echelman’s sculpture and an update on the progress of the transformation of Dilworth Plaza in the Winter 2012 Center City Digest, which began to arrive in mailboxes in early December and is available online.

Echelman’s Pulse will use five-foot-tall, moving columns of atomized water, to reflect in real time the movements of the transportation systems below, utilizing 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 meaningful embellishment on the fountain for this transportation hub welcoming 300,000 passengers into Center City each day and serving as the primary transit gateway to the Sports Complex, to Temple University’s campuses, and to all of University City.

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.

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