West Berlin, Berlin Wall, East Berlin.
CITY HALL CENTENNIAL
A Vision for Penn's 5th Square in 2001
...if we were a daring society we would go so far as to accept some of the statues being nude. [The idea is making me laugh right now.] The northern round part of Dilworth Plaza is kept, and filled with a fountain of trees. Yes, a fountain of trees. Or else you could think of it as a gigantic flower pot. Why not? There is that gigantic clothespin just across the street. What a weird place in the world. It's Philadelphia. So, there is the flower pot at the beginning of Fairmount Park. . . . I have to talk about the big TV screens. There are just two screens, but perhaps each screen could be divided into four screens--multi views. [I just ate a soft pretzel. I'm not kidding.] There would be those two big TV screens, and they would be on most of the time. They, the screens, are supported by three caryatids--actually, since the statues are male (in the proposal here), they would be called Persians--Caryatids are just women. These big screens would broadcast all kinds of things. There would be live broadcasts like the Mummer's Parade, and baseball and football games, and historic events, or just something that is going on in different parts of Philadelphia, or different parts of the world. [You know, I forgot all about my idea of a satellite dish somewhere on Dilworth Plaza. I'm not worried about it though. There is still room for it.] I could just see some soap operas playing in the TVs at lunch time, and all the secretaries in Center City going to Dilworth ...
This text accompanied the design proposal entered in the City Hall Centennial--A Vision for Penn's 5th Square competition. The entire design was executed using CAD, which, given the date of 1988, is an historically rare occurrance prior to the mid-1990s.
It should be noted that none of the 1988 competition entries had any effect on what actually occurred at Philadelphia's City Hall during its centennial year in 2001.
A reenactment of the competition board.
Axonometric view of Dilworth Plaza.
The 'colonnade' of statues that lines the west edge of Dilworth Plaza represents prominent Philadelphians. This civic gesture works as a manifestation of Philadelphia's collective memory, and acts as a symbolic gateway to Philadelphia's municipal center. The precedent for this display of a region's historical figures are the numerous statues of past Belgians that grace the facade of Brussels' City Hall.
The literal focal point of Dilworth Plaza is the giant housing of two electronic screens. While the technology for such large display monitors has for the most part developed in the 1990s, the idea for such an architectural feature goes back to the Football Hall of Fame project by Venturi and Rauch, and, indeed, during the 1980s many sports stadiums incorporated large screen displays for closed circuit television. The placement of such screens in front of Philadelphia's City Hall, like the statues of famous Philadelphians, is meant to portray civic pride as well as a live record of the city's history.
Frank O. Gehry, The Walt Disney Concert Hall (Los Angeles, CA: 1988/92-97).