Thursday, October 20, 2005

Anti-social public plazas

There are lots of way to degrade Philadelphia's public plazas. You can fence people out, as they did at United Plaza. You can cram every inch of space with planters, as they do at Penn Center. Or, as the owners of 1601 Market Street, Transwestern Commercial Services, have discovered - you can make it ugly.

Perhaps in an effort to save money on fall mums, Transwestern has heaped the large granite planters next to the Turf Club (b'tween 16th and 17th Streets) with pyramids of tan rocks. Who do they think they are, Robert Smithson?

If there is one thing worse than a barren, windswept office plaza, it's a plaza that no one can use. The plaza at Centre Square, home of the Clothespin, is about to get a makeover. Let's hope Philadelphians will still be able to say, "Meet me at the Clothespin" after the work is done.

You can read my column about it in the Inquirer on Friday, Oct. 21. Meanwhile, tell me which plaza or park you would nominate for Most Fortified Public Space in Philadelphia.

8 Comments:

Blogger J. Blobbom said...

Independence Square!

8:10 PM  
Blogger deafmute said...

Oh the candidates are legion. While not fortified, Independence Square is a massive scar on the cityscape, whatever that "public space" next to the execreble Municipal Services building is called is vast, barren, and inhuman, even picturesque Logan Circle is near unreachable by pedestrians on a daily basis.

But the worst is poor, poor Franklin Square. Almost completely forgotten by the city, it's choked by 76 on the north, and a major highway to the east, a dangerous expanse of Arch Street to the south, not to mention having only a surface parking lot and a government building (which seems to hate the public realm) to feed it with people.

2:50 AM  
Blogger Inga Saffron said...

My personal nomination is the lovely, grassy park that Hahneman Hospital owns at Broad and Vine. It's completely surrounded by a wrought-iron fence. The most ironic touch is the Seward Johnson-style bronze sculpture of a man sitting on a park bench. So much better than a real human being!

10:40 AM  
Blogger pjustind said...

how about Marconi plaza on South Broad Street

2:43 PM  
Blogger J. Blobbom said...

What about the lovely gardens at Pennsylvania Hospital, visible from Pine Street between 8th and 9th. Love to look at them, but I've never gone inside.

My suggestion of Independence Square was based on my nostalgia for just a little over four years ago, when you used to be able to walk around the square at all hours. Now you can't even get near it without being shouted at by NPS rangers. It's ironic, considering the location.

But I think I may have to agree with deafmute that Franklin Square is even worse. Shudder

7:59 PM  
Blogger mark said...

How about the beautiful lawn area behind the art museum that has been caged off for the past year and a half. What are they doing? I never see anyone working there, yet the area continues to be an inexcessible eyesore.

It's good to finally see some slow, gradual work being done near the waterworks/ cliff path area. What should have been a beautiful treasure for everyone to enjoy has been a neglected disaster area ever since I can remember. The cliff path looks nice and I sure hope they fix the stone fountain to the SE of the waterworks.

Last but not least for me isn't a specific place, but what is with those filthy dirty metal security gates and security bars all over downtown? The riots ended 40 years ago. Center city is coming of age, the cages downtown have got to go.

11:19 PM  
Blogger deafmute said...

Whoops. I said Independence Square when I meant Independence Mall.

I agree with Ms. Saffron's comment, however, so I'm casting my lot in with her nomination. I so thoroughly do not consider that particular spot a public space that it doesn't even enter my mind.

3:19 AM  
Blogger Rob Larsen said...

Since I just spent a few days there, I'll nominate the Miller Plaza at the Hopital of the University of Pennsylvania for its total lack of amenities and warmth.

12:52 PM  

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