Park(ing) Day 2012
It’s that time of year again—the 5th annual Park(ing) Day in Philadelphia! 2012 marks OLIN’s second consecutive year participating in this international event, which invites “citizens, artists and activists…to temporarily transform metered parking spaces into ‘PARK(ing)’ spaces: temporary public places.” OLIN contributed to two Park(ing) Day entries this year. The first site, led by members of the studio, was titled People at Play, and explored the dynamism of the built environment and its ability to promote social vibrancy and public health. The second, done in collaboration with Center City District was a miniature representation of the soon-to-be-revitalized Dilworth Plaza, currently under construction along the west side of City Hall.
Awareness of the need for active recreation and a healthier lifestyle is certainly not a new phenomenon, with advocates ranging from concerned parents to public health professionals to First Lady Michelle Obama. Landscape architects share this common goal, and play an integral role in creating healthier, more socially sustainable cities that enhance urban livability and increase the well-being of citizens.
People at Play explored ways to increase the activity of kids (and kids at heart) by providing prototypical “pop-up” exercise opportunities in the urban streetscape. The design incorporated simple play structures, including steps, blocks, and wood cutouts, and a variety of games such as hopscotch and checkers, giving children the opportunity to engage in free play and enjoy the outdoors. People at Play promoted strength, agility, balance, coordination, and cardiovascular fitness—all while enhancing the enjoyment and use of public space. The message appeared to resonate with passers-by. “Overall it seems to have gone really well,” commented Landscape Designer Ed Confair, who coordinated this year’s project. “The great thing is that we saw people of all ages—parents and kids, groups of adults, even a whole nursery school group stopped by. People really got into the hopscotch and checkers, and everyone seemed to be making use of the chalkboard blocks.”
The redesign of Dilworth Plaza, the historic western edge of Philadelphia’s City Hall, has generated a great deal of buzz throughout the city, after the project was featured in a public exhibition earlier this year. For the “mini” Dilworth Plaza, the team sought to capture the essence of what the space will be like upon its completion in 2014. As with the actual design, the Park(ing) Day project included three major features: lawn, fountain, and plaza. Potted plants and trees surrounded a small grouping of moveable tables and chairs, referencing the bosques and furnishings of the future site. The model fountain was constructed by building a shallow pool lined with a waterproofing layer, and topped with paving stones identical to those which will be used in the actual construction. When the pool was filled, the pavers were submerged under a thin film of water, creating the effect of the future scrim fountain. The team even brought an order of doughnuts—an homage to the café which will cater to lunchtime crowds upon the plaza’s completion.
OLIN Landscape Designer Laura Rennekamp, who assisted in the design and assembly of the Dilworth Plaza Park(ing) Day site, is also on the design team for the real thing. “It’s been a huge success!” she said. “I think my favorite moment was when we put out the doughnuts, we got mobbed by kids from the Friends Select School whose teacher was taking them on a field trip of all the [Park(ing) Day] projects. But even after they ate all the doughnuts, they spent time jumping and splashing around on the fountain. It’s amazing, because that’s exactly how we’ve envisioned people engaging with the real Dilworth Plaza when it’s complete.” Laura also noted that the project was already familiar to many who stopped by. “We were able to field questions and comments, and everyone seemed excited that this project is actually coming to realization.”