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

May 29, 2013

Construction at Dilworth Plaza advances, preparing for the arrival of Janet Echelman’s sculpture Pulse

Posted by Valerie Nahmad

By Linda Harris, Center City District Philadelphia

Construction on Dilworth Plaza is reaching an important milestone.  Around the third week in June, a massive concrete pour will take place at the plaza to create the structural slab that provides the plaza surface on the north end where the café, outdoor terrace, and stairs to the subway-surface line will be located.

But before the lid is put on the plaza, the switching gear that controls all of the electrical power for the plaza will be loaded into a special room at the concourse level.

This will be the power source for the lighting for the unique sculpture Pulse, created by internationally recognized artist Janet Echelman and commissioned by the Center City District.  Pulse 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 (orange, blue, and green) of SEPTA’s transit lines that converge beneath City Hall.  The sculpture is currently being fabricated by Koolfog, a California company that specializes in enhancing outdoor environments with cooling, fogging, and mist-making systems.

Echelman’s work will create both a playful and meaningful embellishment on the fountain for this gateway that welcomes thousands of transit passengers into Center City each day and serves as the primary gateway to the Sports Complex, to Temple University’s campuses, and to all of University City.  The new Dilworth Plaza will be a welcoming green space with trees, benches, the café, and a programmable fountain that will showcase Echelman’s sculpture, 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.

Pulse marks a new 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 $55 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.

Find us at, Facebook, and Twitter @ccdphila. For photos, videos, and more information about Dilworth Plaza and Janet Echelman’s artwork, please click here.

Artist’s rendering of Janet Echelman’s sculpture Pulse

Back to top