Tuesday, November 5, 2013


I began this assignment by picking people that I usually see on my walk to class.  This first boy and I seem to walk to and from class at the same time almost everyday.  We part ways as he enters the subway.  Following someone brings a very surreal experience.  Everyone is an autonomous being with their own paths and locations that they are in transit to.  We tend to lose sight of that fact because we are naturally very narcissistic creatures.

Walnut Hill Community Park

As I walk to campus everyday, I pass the Walnut Hill Farm and Community Park.  Walnut Hill Farm is a quarter-acre plot of land just off the Market-Frankford subway line in west Philadelphia.  It was leased from SEPTA by the Enterprise Center Community Development Corporation in 2010. What was once a lot used to park equipment working on the elevated train, is now a fully sustainable community farm.  This is an interesting piece of green public space because it sits alongside the El.  The park was originally created as a sitting park for residents to use as a place of relaxation.  This year, it was updated to include tables and chairs which coexist with the already-established community garden and farm.  There are also many native trees and flowers that have been kept in tact in the garden.  

In researching the park, I discovered how effective it is as a 'green' space.  The streetlights are solar-powered, the creation of the park helped to save a severely eroded part of the land, and the park and greenhouse are irrogated with run-off from the 46th street El station.  The community and The Enterprise Center were able to work with Septa to redirect the station's downspout in order to harvest rain water.  The water collects in a cistern and then goes through a cleansing process and eventually ends in the Septa-owned lot of the garden.   I also discovered that a group of Drexel students worked on an engineering project to make the park more sustainable.  They were given a grant to bring these design projects to life.  Below are the three projects as described on Drexel's site.

"One team created a low-pressure system of piping and drip tape that transports water from the farm’s solar-powered cistern to the individual beds. The system can now irrigate the entire farm at the twist of a knob and it also conserves water in comparison to using a garden hose.

The second team designed a tool to make it easier for volunteers to till the soil in the elevated planting beds. The students came up with a wood-framed machine that uses “L” brackets as tilling spikes and strategically placed bicycle wheels to propel it along the 50-foot beds.

A third group designed a greenhouse, which will help to extend the growing season. The schematics call for a combination of Mylar plastic sheeting and water barrels to create an enclosure that can maintain a constant temperature. The designs have been given to the CDC for future construction."

Pictured below are the original sketches of the park done by the Community Design Collaborative.  As you can see, they have created a separation of garden space and relaxation space.

Personally, the garden provides me with a feeling of safety.  The new streetlights that illuminate the area at night and the addition of 2 blue light security checkpoints create a well-lit, homey space.  Since the renovations were completed this September, I find myself purposefully walking home past the park so that I can appreciate a beautiful piece of greenery on my commute.  I also use this garden as a source of fresh produce.  Every Friday, members of the Walnut Hill Growers Cooperative sell the produce that has been harvested in the garden at the Walnut Hill Community Farm Stand.  All of the proceeds go back into the farm.  


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Art, Democracy and Public Space

"Artists are in a special position to contribute to this exploration of new forms of democracy, by creating work that is challenging and disrupting. Artists have the opportunity to continue the avant-garde tradition, which has always engaged public issues. They should try to make sense of this tradition without being imprisoned by it."  -Krzysztof Wodiczko

In his discussion of democracy, Wodiczko talks about the relationship between public space and democracy and then how that public space is used and transformed by artists.  Democracy is a form of government in which all citizens are equal and participate freely. A public space belongs to the people, not a particular entity.  Many problems arise when activating public space so that the people will use it as a place for democracy, or freedom.  This is the job of the artist.  Artists are able to look at a public space and turn it into something beautiful or avant-garde.  They have the opportunity to make a statement about democracy in their activation of public space.

When thinking of this concept, I am reminded of the public sculpture "Tilted Arc." (pictured above)  This piece was a site-specific sculpture by Richard Serra in 1981.  The sculpture was essentially a giant black curved wall that cut across a city block.  To Serra, it was a beautiful display of the human experience because it forced you to interact with the open block differently and see the space in a new way.  Unfortunately, the sculpture was just in the way to most people.  It was large, cut all views of the landscape and really hindered the way people used the public space.  It was removed quickly after being placed and started an interesting conversation in art.  Would that piece continue to be art even after its removal?  Serra argued that in order for it to be art it had to exist in that exact location.

It is interesting reading about the Kuzguncuk region of Istanbul.  Like Philadelphia, they are a city with a rich cultural past.  Much of this culture comes from the many wars over their land.  Each group that has held Istanbul has made dramatic changes to the city.  Also the economic and cosmopolitan rise of Istanbul has effected the way people view life and themselves as people.  There is an imprint on Istanbul today that can be seen in their daily culture.   In my search of this neighborhood, I found many images of stacked houses all painted a different vibrant color, like the image below.  I feel like this represents the main idea of the article.  It shows how colorful and changed the city has been.  It is a conglomeration of many different cultures but it creates something beautiful.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Green Space: Locust Walk

When thinking of public space there is a focus on use and accessibility.  In a city, space is extremely valuable so we are forced to question the legitimacy of an open air park within the hustle and bustle of city life.  When it comes to Locust Walk, we see the importance of paths to a city and its people.  Every day, thousands of people use this beautiful path to get from one place to another.  The entire space is based around movement, which became my focus in this photographic survey of space.