New life for the Parkway: A modest proposal

Proposal: A pavilion for the Parkway

2 minute read
Lincoln Center, New York, summer 2008: Why not Philadelphia?
Lincoln Center, New York, summer 2008: Why not Philadelphia?
Moore College of Art and Design recently presented a colloquy about urban planning, featuring the Inquirer's architecture design critic Inga Saffron and Andrew Altman, the city's commerce director and deputy mayor for planning and economic development. One concern that emerged from this "Visionary Voices" program was how to make the Benjamin Franklin Parkway a destination not only for museum-going but for other cultural activities as well.

Let me suggest one proposal: What about a state-of-the-art, multi-use, open-air pavilion for dance, theater and/or film?

Such a venue might borrow a page from New York's highly successful Midsummer Night Swing series, sponsored by Lincoln Center, where a different type of dance and live music is featured for every one of 25 theme nights, along with lessons, from swing and ballroom to salsa and tango. This series, now in its 22nd year, attracts as many as 10,000 paying participants each night.

Dance companies and performance groups might be scheduled as well; most performers would jump at the chance for an outdoor showcase in a beautiful setting. And films might be shown on summer evenings in a grassy adjacent spot, utilizing the same sound system and providing a picnic opportunity.

An imaginative architect could design a year-round functional space. In winter the pavilion floor could be removed to create a recessed ice skating rink. Cafés might offer hot chocolate. In the summer, more extensive menus would be available, in a setting that would include a background of live music on special evenings.

Such an ambitious program would require substantial funding, but it would cost only a fraction of the amount required, say, to build a new Barnes Foundation museum on the Parkway. If another fraction of the funds currently earmarked for the Barnes move were invested instead in preserving and reorganizing the original Barnes building in Merion, a unique Philadelphia treasure could be saved, while the visual richness of the Parkway could be expanded with a lively cultural diversity that represents all of the arts.

Lynn Denton is an artist, teacher and filmmaker who lives in Bella Vista.

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