With the goal of transforming historic Dilworth Plaza (Philadelphia City Hall) into a focal point for the city’s thriving downtown, the Center City District commissioned sculptor Janet Echelman to create an artwork inspired by the site’s historic association transporation, water and steam. The site served as the city’s Centre Square Water Works in the 1800s, and in the next century was expanded with alnd from the Pennsylvania Railroad, which had used steam-powered trains.
Echelman’s art will be embedded in the new plaza’s 11,600-square foot fountain and will trace above ground in real time the paths of the three subway lines below. Described by the artist as “a living X-ray of the city’s circulatory system”, the work creates moving 4-foot-tall curtains of mist, which glow at night when illuminated by multiple layers of colored light. The artwork aims to physically and psychologically transform the way people view they city’s central square and enter its public transit system. The integration of the art was made possible through collaboration with the site’s outstanding design team.
Her permanent and temporary project draw inspiration from ancient and industrial craft and bring them together with digital techonology. The results are accessible, dynamic public artworks that respond to forces of nature — wind, water, light and people.
For Philadelphia, Echelman wanted to focus on the city’s industrial history, which she felt was not as widely known as its Federalist history yet worthy of attention. Her larger goal was to generate “sense of place” and create a communal urban experience.
The ground breaking ceremony occured on January 30, 2012 and is set for completion in Spring 2014.