Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

(Philadelphia) Underpasses as public art

For awhile I have been thinking about architectural lighting and other public art treatments of highway and railroad/transit underpasses, to add verve and aesthetic value to locations that otherwise tend to be underlit, grim and unsafe.

Underpasses illustrate my point that transportation infrastructure serves, for better or worse, as an element of civic architecture.

Aspen Street Underpass, Takoma DC (Metropolitan Branch Railroad/Metrorail)
Aspen Street Underpass, Takoma DC

(The NoMA Business Improvement District is addressing underpasses also, with the Underpass Art Parks initiative.)

One particularly attractive example is the "Light Rail" installation by Bill FitzGibbons, in Birmingham, Alabama.
Tunnel of Lights, Railroad Park, Birmingham, Alabama,  "Light Rails" by Bill FitzGibbons

But in the aforementioned presentation on parks at last week's Montgomery County Planning Speaker Series, Joe Forkin's of the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation included images of work they performed on the Race Street and Spring Garden Street underpasses.

Congruent with the line of thinking outlined in the ChangeLab Solutions Complete Parks Playbook in terms of "access" (and the past blog entry, "A gap in planning across agencies: Prioritizing park access for pedestrians, bicyclists and transit users compared to motor vehicle access"), rather than functioning as barriers to the riverfront, DRWC aims to make underpasses connecting neighborhoods to parks a positive and safe aesthetic experience.  Hence their work with the two underpasses featured in the presentation.

Race Street Connector
Race Street Connector, Philadelphia

Race Street Connector, Philadelphia, at night

Spring Garden Entrance, Market Street-Frankford El ("LED display extraordinaire under the El," Star Newspaper).
Spring Garden El Station at night, Philadelphia



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