Thursday, April 30, 2015

The New LOVE Park

With Dilworth Park, Sister Cities Park, and the Parkway transforming the way we look at Center City's public spaces, and the city finally coming to terms with the fact that grass is easier to mow than concrete is to clean, our most iconic park (and probably our most photographed location) is looking a bit like a stale turn in the middle of a lush lawn.

That's going to change soon, and based on the renderings just released by Hargreaves Associates and KieranTimberlake, it's pretty much as good as it gets.

For starters, an equally dramatic fountain has become interactive. Okay, not quite as dramatic. Don't worry, it won't be launching your children 100 feet in the air. But looking at the throngs of kids (and I'll admit it, sometimes myself) who take a dip in Swann Fountain on oppressively hot summer days, when the public pools are just tepid ponds of ball soup, the designers saw a need and addressed it. 

Borrowing from the less traditional Dilworth Park and Sister Cities Park fountains, you'll be free to frolic in LOVE Park. But there's more to the park than its fountain and famous Robert Indiana LOVE sculpture, and since the plaza's existence its potential has been withheld by its overwhelming boundaries. 

Concrete barriers separate flower beds and trees from more concrete. What seemed to be an attempt to create an engaging experience became an awkward space to maneuver. People came to take pictures, then quickly left. The unused spaces, though cumbersome for pedestrians proved majestic for skateboarders and trick bikers. But now that they have a proper forum, the spectacle is over, and we're left with black scars and cracked tiles. 

The proposed renovations prove that less is more and makes an incidental tourist attraction and local destination for leisure. The concrete boundaries are removed, plants and trees become accessible, and the labyrinth of walkways have made way for open space. It's inviting.

Of course what's really unique about this proposal, especially considering our city's knee jerk inclination to start over, is that some of its best attributes remain. Obviously, we're not moving Indiana's sculpture. But the fountain also remains centered with the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Parkway, and City hall, keeping the astounding vistas from the Northwest and Southeast in tact. 

And while some may wonder why, the UFO isn't going anywhere. Now before you clutch your pearls and gasp "Heavens to Mergatroyd," the pavilion will be getting a much needed facelift and a green roof. With new glass and a colorful lighting motif, the Southwest corner of LOVE Park might look like the landing pad from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and it's going to be awesome.

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