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Green Good Design Awards ARCHIVE 2016 Urban Planning and Landscape Architecture
DILWORTH PARK
  • DILWORTH PARK
  • DILWORTH PARK
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DILWORTH PARK
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA | 2014
Client: Center City District
 
Architect: Kieran Timberlake
Landscape Architect: OLIN
Project Manager: Urban Engineers, Inc.
Owner’s Representative: Gilbane Development Group
Project Manager: Urban Engineers, Inc.
General Contractor: Daniel J. Keating Company
Structural Engineers: CVM
Civil and MEP Engineers: Urban Engineers, Inc.
Lighting Design: Arup
Photographers: James Ewing
 
The civic park and transit hub bordering Philadelphia’s City Hall has been transformed into a fresh landmark that re-captures city founder William Penn’s original vision for a welcoming town square. 
 
 
The project presented an opportunity to delve into the complex history of a significant public space under continual change in one of the country's oldest cities. Originally built in the 1970s as part of an urban renewal initiative, the park became a symbol of neglect in ensuing years. Its multiple levels created an unwelcoming hardscape, with unlit corners, maze-like corridors, and obstacles to pedestrian passage. The redesign converted the site into a vibrant, green public space that includes a dramatically improved gateway to public transit at the heart of the city. In planning, the design team approached the site as both a community-building gathering place and a crossroads that would promote the use of public transportation.
 
The team created a single-level park with inviting amenities, including an expansive green lawn, a café, and a splash fountain in honor of the site of Philadelphia’s first water works and public fountain. The 180x60-foot fountain is a seamless part of the paving, made up of "pixels" that can be programmed to accommodate events including farmers markets, performances, and an ice skating rink in winter. A system of belowground cisterns cycles up to 20,000 gallons of collected and purified rainwater, which is also used to irrigate the greenery on site. The 21,000 SF of new
plantings consist of native Pennsylvania trees, hardy all-season shrubs, and ornamental groundcovers and grasses such as switch grass and fragrant low-grow sumac. 

The site also sits above the convergence of subway and trolley lines, and adjacent to regional rail connection. Two large glass pavilions celebrate entry to these four levels of transit below while letting daylight stream down into the concourse. Before, the concourse was dark, uninviting, and exposed to the elements. Now, pedestrians are protected from weather and able to see clearly while the need for artificial lighting is also greatly reduced. The transportation dynamic was adapted to provide a smooth, coherent, and fully accessible experience for the 300,000 people who pass through the transportation system every day.  
 
The pavilions are defined by the arc of a circle that centers itself at the top of City Hall. They are constructed solely out of uninterrupted laminated structural glass as an homage to the singular materiality of City Hall, which is one of the nation's largest examples of all-stone masonry. Perhaps among the largest constructions of laminated structural glass ever erected, reaching nearly 20 feet in height and spanning the 17-foot wide stair, the pavilions curve gently to the ground plane, seemingly sliding under the central walkway. The structures accentuate the monumentality of the 114-year old building, creating an elegant frame for a line of sight that remains intact down the length of Market Street. 
 
The approach to the park is now pedestrian-friendly, with paving gently rising from the perimeter walkways toward the center of the site. Low stone walls create groves that separate the park from the street and form smaller-scaled spaces such as the café terrace and lawn panel. Verdant alcoves in the landscape provide peaceful respite in the midst of bustling city activity. 
  
Once a symbol of neglect, and therefore avoided by many, Dilworth Park now stands as a beacon to welcome the commuters, visitors, and citizens of Philadelphia. Operating in a network of newly rehabilitated urban green spaces along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Dilworth Park fosters a sense of arrival and destination to all.
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