Art Commission gives nod to skateboard park, Avenue of the Arts light sculpture

A long-promised skateboard park near the Philadelphia Art Museum came one step closer to being realized as it received approval from the Philadelphia Art Commission on Wednesday.

The plan submitted for Paine’s Park benches were slightly modified one that had already been given the go-ahead from the Art Commission and the Fairmount Park Commission back in 2006. Now that funding is in place, the effort is ready to proceed.

Among other things, today’s plan included storm water management elements — such as three rain gardens — to meet new requirements.

The applicants brought along material samples — including a terra cotta-hued brick designed to mimic that of the museum’s facade, and granite reclaimed from Dilworth Plaza — and provided details of site furnishings (benches, lighting, bike racks) that they said would conform with standards now underway at other Schuylkill River parks.

Two other substantial Park system improvements were also discussed.

The skateboard park’s designer, Anthony Bracalli of Friday Architects, stayed at the table to run through a complicated, multi-tiered project at FDR Park, the Phillies Urban Youth Academy. Ultimately, the Commissioners granted final approval to the overall master plan and the first phase, a new field and dugouts.

As the project moves ahead, the Commission would like to review designs for signage, a proposed canopy and other aspects, noted Chair Sean Buffington.

For what seemed like the umpteenth time, Nina Bisbee of the Philadelphia Zoo once again appeared before the Commission, this time to detail elements of much-needed pedestrian improvements around the zoo’s edges.

The changes — new trees, paving, buffers between the streets and sidewalks, crosswalks, and upgrades of the zoo’s front entrance and the spaces under the Amtrak bridge — were received with enthusiasm from Commissioners.

An art installation, mandated by the One Percent for Art program, at a new Carl Dranoff apartment building set to rise at the corner of Broad and South streets also received the green light.

Called “LightPlay,” the piece by Mags Harries and Lajos Heder — an eclectic public art team based in Cambridge, MA — is a sinuous, two-part installation fabricated from light-refracting film sandwiched between two pieces of laminated glass. One will run along a blank corner of the building and the other will serve as a canopy over an existing 1922 subway entrance.

Offered only photos and a small sample of the material, several Commissioners pressed the building’s architect, Jerry K. Roller of Philadelphia-based JKR Partners, for details on the piece’s weight, scale, and light source and emissions.

Surprisingly, however, no one asked for a greater understanding of how the subway segment will relate to the actual existing entrance. This might have also been a good time to raise the question of the city’s ever-increasing stockpile of street furniture, a variety of subway entrance canopies chief among them.

After the meeting’s official and administrative reviews were completed, Chair Buffington brought up the issue of new draft regulations for the Commission, a process now in play at several other city commissions. 

With only six commissioners in attendance, he suggested, this was an initial step only. Every member now has the draft regulations in hand and is charged with reviewing them over the summer, with an intent to get them finalized sometime in the Fall.

Contact the reporter at and follow her on Twitter @joanngreco

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