Art Commission gives nod to Pier 53, Rodin Square

     Overview Pier 53 (Image courtesy of PlanPhilly)

    Overview Pier 53 (Image courtesy of PlanPhilly)

    The Philadelphia Art Commission advanced three projects by granting them final approval at its first meeting of the new year on Wednesday.

    First, the Commission reviewed revised renderings, based on notes from its November meeting, for a planned park on Pier 53 at Washington Avenue.

    Applicants returned with more details on proposed plantings, which they said would strive to create a native riparian uplands landscape by including an allee of river  birches, herbaceous meadows and low-growing grasses, along with some ornamental shrubs.

    Commissioner José M. Almiñana suggested that designers pull back from some of their experimental thoughts in favor of the “tried and true” such as cottonwoods, noting the iffy conditions of the underlying soil.

    Commissioner Emmanuel Kelly was more intent on getting details — including the size and shape of its links — on the park’s railings, which was likened to chain mail. Continuing on the matter of the railings, commissioner Rob Roesch asked why they couldn’t be better used to connect the park with a planned art installation; he was told that budget concerns precluded that idea.

    Commission Chair Sean Buffington formulated a motion for final approval contingent that these concerns, as well as a better idea of how the sculpture would be lighted at night, were satisfactorily addressed. It passed unanimously.

    The morning’s second hearing offered refinements and responses to a September presentation on what’s being called Rodin Square, a new development on N. 22nd Street that includes a Whole Foods supermarket and a new apartment tower.

    The applicants came on Wednesday with detailed drawings and a myriad of material samples. Commissioners Kelly and Buffington praised both the project and the presentation, and the project received unanimous final approval.

    The last case introduced a pair of murals proposed for the Girard Avenue Bridge. The project comes courtesy of Mural Arts and is being funded by a private donation from a rowing enthusiast. Artist Jonathan Laidacker — who brought his newborn, “for the sympathy vote,” as Park & Recreation’s Mark Focht joked — described the work as paying tribute to the Schuylkill’s rowing tradition by incorporating references to Thomas Eakins paintings and by tracing the history of the sport in Philadelphia.

    Commissioners sought clarification on just how the mural — which will be painted on canvas and not on the bridge’s surface — would be installed. They then issued the project a green light. The baby sat wide-eyed throughout the proceedings and didn’t utter a peep.

    View a gallery of the renderings on the website.

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