The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
By Linda Harris, Center City Philadelphia
Accessible fountains in city parks draw people of all ages, as the Center City District experienced once again when it transformed Sister Cities Park and reopened it in 2012.
This 1.3-acre park at 18th Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway was an abandoned and forgotten park in a strategic downtown location. With institutions such as the Franklin Institute, the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, Free Library of Philadelphia, the Rodin Museum and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, there were plenty of reasons for people to be nearby. With the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul holding weekend services, weddings and other events and two adjacent neighborhoods and the northern edge of the business district, there was certainly a need for quality open space.
The renovation of Sister Cities Park with its fountain, café, Children’s Discovery Garden and inviting green spaces, acted like a magnet, drawing diverse visitors, workers, families with children, and linking multiple destinations.
The fountain at Sister Cities Park was an immediate hit with families and children.
The same experience is about to be repeated on an even larger scale with the Center City District’s renovation of Dilworth Plaza next to City Hall. Linking the new entrance to the Pennsylvania Convention Center on North Broad Street to the Avenue of the Arts, , connecting the office district to the major hotels on Market East, and sitting atop the convergence of regional transportation lines, the new Dilworth Plaza will be a welcoming green space with trees, benches, a café, and a programmable fountain that will reflect City Hall’s façade, serve as a playground for children, or when turned off, accommodate a range of special events, concerts, outdoor markets or ice-skating.
In addition, the fountain will showcase a unique and specially-commissioned public sculpture by Janet Echelman, Pulse, which will use five-foot-tall, moving columns of atomized water, to reflect in real time the movements of the transportation systems below, featuring the designated colors of SEPTA’s transit lines that converge beneath City Hall.
Commissioned by the Center City District, Echelman’s work will create both a playful and meaningful embellishment on the fountain for this gateway that welcomes 300,000 passengers into Center City each day and serves as the primary transit gateway to the Sports Complex, to Temple University’s campuses, and to all of University City. Pulse marks a new experimental phase in Echelman’s career, using atomized water rather than fabric as a medium to capture environmental forces on a grand scale.
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 mid- 2014. 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.
Artist’s rendering of Janet Echelman’s sculpture Pulse.