For Parkway Redesign, Association for Public Art Says “Be Bold”

UPDATE Fall 2021: The City of Philadelphia has chosen Design Workshop to lead the redesign of the Parkway >>

The City of Philadelphia is preparing a major redesign with permanent upgrades for the Benjamin Franklin Parkway that will prioritize pedestrians and “dramatically improve the safety, functionality, and beauty of the Parkway.” The move follows a series of recommendations made by PennPraxis in its More Park, Less Way plan published in 2013.

[The Association for Public Art’s Executive Director] encouraged the teams to be bold, inventive, and allow space for public art to play a role in this new iteration of the Parkway.

With support from the William Penn Foundation, the City (led by Philadelphia Parks & Recreation and the Office of Transportation, Infrastructure, and Sustainability) launched an international open call in March and invited three design teams – Design Workshop, DLANDStudio + DIGSAU, and MVRDV – to develop and share their conceptual plans for the Parkway. The teams presented their proposals to the public (video below) as part of a “Parkway Ideas Workshop,” and the City will select one team to carry out its vision. The City also released a public survey to get feedback about the presentations, which will be shared with the chosen finalist.

The Association was one of the early players who helped activate the Eakins Oval space on the Parkway through bold public art commissions, including Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s OPEN AIR (2012, photo © James Ewing) and Candy Coated’s Magic Carpet (2014, photo © Constance Mensh).

The Association for Public Art (aPA) was one of a number of groups invited to meet with the design teams on the Parkway to discuss its future. Penny Balkin Bach, aPA’s Executive Director & Chief Curator, encouraged the teams to be bold, inventive, and allow space for public art to play a role in this new iteration of the Parkway. Bach shared with the teams how aPA has worked in this spirit for years as one of the early players who helped activate the Eakins Oval space on the Parkway (“The Oval”) through bold and inviting public art experiences. In 2012, aPA commissioned Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s OPEN AIR interactive light installation for the Parkway and turned what later became The Oval into an outdoor living room for viewing; and in 2014, aPA collaborated with Philadelphia Parks & Recreation to install Candy Coated’s Magic Carpet, a whimsical environment filled with color, pattern, illusion, and movement for summer fun at The Oval.

Founded in 1872, the Association for Public Art (formerly the Fairmount Park Art Association) has a unique and significant relationship to the Parkway that goes back more than a century, from commissioning the first comprehensive plan for the Parkway in 1907, to placing and caring for permanent outdoor sculptures, to presenting these large-scale public art installations.

Learn more about our role on the Parkway ››

Related Artworks


Three Way Piece Number 1: Points


by Henry Moore (1898 - 1986)

Benjamin Franklin Parkway between 16th and 17th Streets

“Sculpture,” said Henry Moore, “should always at first sight have some obscurities, and further meanings.”


Cai Guo-Qiang: Fireflies


by Cai Guo-Qiang (b. 1957)

Benjamin Franklin Parkway

The internationally renowned artist Cai Guo-Qiang draws on memories of the traditional lantern festivals of his childhood for his latest site-specific project.




by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer (b. 1967)

Benjamin Franklin Parkway between 21st and 24th Streets

Inspired by Philadelphia’s rich tradition of democracy and respect for free speech, “OPEN AIR” transformed Philadelphia’s night sky with 24 powerful robotic searchlights that were directed by participants’ voices and GPS locations.


Magic Carpet


by Candy Coated (b. 1970)

The Oval, in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art

For summer 2014, artist Candy Coated temporarily transformed The Oval in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art into a magical environment of color, pattern, illusion, and movement.




by Roxy Paine (b. 1966)

Benjamin Franklin Parkway, 24th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue (Iroquois Park)

Hand-fabricated from thousands of pieces of stainless steel pipe, plate, and rods, Symbiosis is part of Roxy Paine’s “Dendroid” series.



(1983 – 1999)

by Mark di Suvero (b. 1933)

Benjamin Franklin Parkway at Eakins Oval and Spring Garden Street (Iroquois Park)

Mark di Suvero’s monumental Iroquois has a robust energy and physical presence. The abstract sculpture is formed from painted steel I-beams, which are emblematic of the artist’s use of industrial materials.


Joan of Arc


by Emmanuel Frémiet (1824 – 1910)

Kelly Drive at 25th Street

A memorial to the French heroine, the French community in Philadelphia sought the aid of the Fairmount Park Art Association (now the Association for Public Art) to commemorate their centennial.

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