Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Extend the Diagonal

Just after dark today I walked over to the Free Library for a meeting about the redesign of Love Park.  It was a cool, windy night, but clear, and as I was passing through Logan Circle I stopped for a moment to admire the view.

First I admired the statues in the fountain, beautifully lit and quite romantic.  Then I turned and looked up the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, or Museum Mile as some people call it.  In the distance, clear as a bell and sitting up on its hill, ablaze with light, was the Art Museum.  Then I turned the other way and looked at City Hall, also quite spiffy in its bath of light.

This has to be one of the best urban vistas in the United States.  And I know if you walk up the Art Museum steps, you can get another version of the same thing, looking back to City Hall.  And if you go to Love Park and stand in front of the Love Statue, you can see to the Art Museum.

But the vista business stops there, at the Love Statue.  If you turn around and face City Hall, the great diagonal vanishes and is replaced by William Penn's street grid.  City Hall is physically isolated from Love Park by way too many lanes of traffic.   But it is also visually isolated. 

The park's gate actually diverts you to 15th Street, and offers up the Municipal Services Building as a sight of interest.  And there's a cacophony of street furniture that fritters away any thought of the diagonal axis, so vibrant for so long, and stopping at our shoulder blades.

I hope the redesign of Love Park will do what it can to continue the great diagonal, at least visually, all the way to City Hall.

And I hope City Hall will reciprocate.  You can actually see the Art Museum from the ground in front of City Hall.  Go to the Jose Garces sandwich shop and walk east, past the bollards.  Stop before you get to the statue of General McClellan.  Turn around.  Look carefully.  There's a lot of clutter, but there is a sight line.

Dilworth Park already has several slightly elevated seating areas.  Perhaps another one should go in at this viewing point.  What a great place to sit out in fine weather and drink a cup of coffee, or perhaps a Pernod.

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