The Highway to Reimagine Benjamin Franklin Parkway: Making a Folks-Centric Parkway

By Corey Dodd and Tarana Hafiz

Within the fall of 2021, the Metropolis of Philadelphia launched into a undertaking to Reimagine Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Together with different iconic, historic cities all over the world, Philadelphia is following swimsuit with reinvestment within the public realm, that includes a extra pedestrian-friendly method to the historic hall. Right now the Parkway serves as town’s hub for cultural establishments, a venue for large- and small-scale occasions, a vacation spot for train, play, and social actions, and as a promenade for peaceable civic demonstration. A aim of the undertaking contains honoring the historic design intent of the Parkway which stems from the Metropolis Stunning Motion that claimed design couldn’t be separated from social points and may assist facilitate civic satisfaction and engagement. Additionally essential to the Parkway’s future legacy is celebrating Philadelphia’s cultural richness and variety, and embodying the hopes and desires of its residents by weaving training, civic meeting and recreation in an inviting, protected house.

The reimagined Parkway will probably be repositioned from one that may be a ceremonial thoroughfare made for the car, to 1 that displays the hearts and voices of all Philadelphians. The group holds an integral position within the course of to construct a extra “people-centric” house. This is a chance to deal with robust questions, and the Parkway, if designed proper, has the potential to be an area for escape and expression when confronted with problems with our present socioeconomic local weather – an ongoing pandemic, racial and civic injustices, and challenges similar to homelessness and violence. This undertaking represents a brand new mild and an essential time the place, collectively, we’re co-creating what a free and honest public house means for Philadelphia and the way it may be optimized for all folks.

Picture: Design Workshop

As with all main metropolis, Philadelphia has continued to evolve for the reason that inception of this unbelievable instance of civic artwork within the Beaux-Arts model and serves a much more various and denser inhabitants than when it existed in 1917. Latest urbanization tendencies problem the design of this grand civic house. The expansive linear streets as soon as adept for guiding residents and guests between the museums, artworks, and railroad stations that lined the Parkway are actually dominated by commuter motorists. These multiple-lane freeways fragment the general public realm by dissolving spatial definition and creating challenges for accessing the boulevard and its establishments as a pedestrian. In our conversations with the folks of Philadelphia, one factor is obvious – the muse of the imaginative and prescient is to construct a vacation spot for folks, not autos. By making the Parkway a spot to return into, not via, we are able to reestablish connecting the general public to town’s immense playground.

Presently, the Parkway is characterised by its edges; the perimeters are the place it’s protected to walk or roll your manner between establishments on shaded walkways. Within the effort to make the parkway a holistically welcoming place and a inexperienced transect that permits a pedestrian to expertise moments from Love Park to the Oval with out bodily or behavioral impediments, there’s a want to show the park inside out, permitting the character to develop towards the sting. Continued alternatives for public artwork, creation of nodes and the implementation of pocket parks or plazas will function connective tissues between establishments and neighborhoods. The supply of an informational heart to maintain customers updated on the happenings of the Parkway and direct passersby have all been reoccurring themes for facilities outlined by stakeholders. The consequence might strengthen the central arms of the boulevard and stretch to the park’s edges. The Penn Avenue Initiative in Washington D.C., Passeig De Sant Joan Boulevard in Barcelona, and Occasions Sq. in New York are examples of public areas which have reintroduced the notion of energizing streets by right-sizing them for folks. This undertaking offers an opportunity to not solely be taught from such precedents however really embody the concept of a “democratic panorama” via design parts similar to exercise zones, symbolic artwork, defacto levels, widened sidewalks, welcoming gardens, and meeting areas; primarily applications that cater to a wide range of folks and their backgrounds.

Picture: Design Workshop

Paths and plantings are the backbones of the park, however persons are its lifeblood. The individuals who repeatedly go to this public inexperienced house come for various causes and their presence is a welcoming attraction to others. Whereas particular occasions are an essential side of the park, different applications will probably be developed to offer a balanced and steady attraction to guests, strengthening the park’s mission. Alternatives for future partnerships exist with neighborhood colleges for youth engagement in public artwork exhibitions and outside studying labs.  For instance, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society could lead on rotating cohorts to interact group members in studying and offering help to take care of Parkway plantings or a group backyard house.

Reimagining Benjamin Franklin Parkway offers the prospect to face matters of therapeutic, progress, and innovation. This will solely be achieved by going on to the group and studying from the untold tales and views that can break up the monotony of this largely whitewashed historical past and make the traditionally Eurocentric house a spot for all voices from various backgrounds to be represented. This isn’t nearly a bodily place, however an area in time – to catalyze change and have troublesome, but productive conversations round social engagement and group mobilization that speaks to a variety of patrons. As we transfer via the design course of, the hope is to succeed in essentially the most marginalized communities of town, constituents who hardly ever have a seat on the desk throughout such a planning endeavor and co-create concepts with everybody. Inventive engagement strategies similar to “meetings-in-a-box,” mapping strategies utilizing Safegraph knowledge that helps us higher perceive neighborhoods under-reached by the Parkway’s present programming, or social media campaigns that present a platform for dialogue and debate round a people-centric Parkway. These are all methods to construct a plan that’s reflective of the desires and aspirations of Philadelphians- youth and seniors, BIPOC and white, abled and people residing with a incapacity, advantaged and the disenfranchised.

Picture: Design Workshop

Participating residents who at present use the Parkway along with those that don’t however want to use the house within the planning course of is the one manner to make sure the long-term sustainability of the park as an inviting, instructional and economically viable place. In doing so, choices that really meet the needs and wishes of residents and guests who contribute to the vitality of town will probably be included into the reimagined design- from protected bike routes to the Schuylkill River, to pop-up kiosks for meals and beverage, and multipurpose group hubs for youth actions. This iteration of the design course of that depends on public inclusion is reflective of each the evolution of Philadelphia’s demographics for the reason that park’s inception and the evolution of the method of designing public areas. We’re past the occasions when a choose few decided when, how, and the place adjustments to the areas all of us want to take pleasure in and make the most of are made.

This undertaking will impression comparable public realm tasks with historic significance throughout the nation by demonstrating that success might be present in sustaining the essence of authentic design intent whereas addressing trendy wants for accessibility and play. True worth of a public house is discovered when all residents can establish their likeness in a community of civic areas – whether or not that be visually via artwork, via lodging for data sharing, or in one thing so simple as a planting that reminds them of a household backyard. These multi-faceted roles of grand pedestrian parkways are very important to the well being of cities like Philadelphia as a result of they domesticate an engaged citizenry. The flexibility of the Parkway to spark feelings and create reminiscences has and can proceed to be on the coronary heart of Philadelphia’s beloved park.

Corey Dodd Corey Dodd is a panorama designer based mostly within the Raleigh studio of Design Workshop. His work facilities on cultivating contextually delicate environments that contribute to the general well-being of communities by empowering folks as placekeepers and placemakers in figuring out the inherently particular qualities of their public areas via historic and cultural literacy.


Tarana Hafiz

Tarana Hafiz is a New York Metropolis native and Houston-based city designer/planner with Design Workshop. She focuses on creating equitable communities, addressing points confronted inside public areas, and integrating outreach to garner help for impactful design.

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