Design Observer

About
Books
Job Board
Newsletters
Archive
Contact



Observatory

About
Resources
Submissions
Contact


Featured Writers

Michael Bierut
William Drenttel
John Foster
Jessica Helfand
Alexandra Lange
Mark Lamster
Paul Polak
Rick Poynor
John Thackara
Rob Walker


Departments

Advertisement
Audio
Books
Collections
Dear Bonnie
Dialogues
Essays
Events
Foster Column
From Our Archive
Gallery
Interviews
Miscellaneous
New Ideas
Opinions
Partner News
Photos
Poetry
Primary Sources
Projects
Report
Reviews
Slideshows
The Academy
Today Column
Unusual Suspects
Video


Topics

Advertising
Architecture
Art
Books
Branding
Business
Cities / Places
Community
Craft
Culture
Design History
Design Practice
Development
Disaster Relief
Ecology
Economy
Education
Energy
Environment
Fashion
Film / Video
Food/Agriculture
Geography
Global / Local
Graphic Design
Health / Safety
History
Housing
Ideas
Illustration
India
Industry
Info Design
Infrastructure
Interaction Design
Internet / Blogs
Journalism
Landscape
Literature
Magazines
Media
Museums
Music
Nature
Obituary
Other
Peace
Philanthropy
Photography
Planning
Poetry
Politics / Policy
Popular Culture
Poverty
Preservation
Product Design
Public / Private
Public Art
Religion
Reputations
Science
Shelter
Social Enterprise
Sports
Sustainability
Technology
Theory/Criticism
Transportation
TV / Radio
Typography
Urbanism
Water


Comments Posted 04.07.09 | PERMALINK | PRINT

Mark Lamster

Look Both Ways: On the Streets of Philadelphia


dscn5019

Last week I found myself with a couple of hours to kill in Philadelphia and decided to spend them at the art museum. Being an advocate of public transportation (and cheap), I made for the subway, only to find that the Philadelphia subway does not go to the museum, which is literally off the city's grid. "Just take a cab," I was told; there's no other convenient way.

Fifteen bucks later (and counting) I'm heading up the Ben Franklin Parkway, Philly's answer to the Champs Elysees, toward the museum, which sits up on a rise over the city, like the Parthenon. I assumed I would be dropped off in front of the place so I could scale the ceremonial steps, like Rocky. No dice. Instead, I was driven up a circuitous access road to the back entry, which I guess is more convenient for those not into early Stalone pictures or climbing up lots of stairs, but is definitely not a stirring introduction to the museum. Thankfully, there's plenty of good stuff inside. After my visit, I decided to climb down the Rocky steps on my way back into town by foot. This was a pretty disheartening trip. At the base of the steps you come to the unforgiving Franklin Parkway, five lanes of traffic with no central crosswalk for pedestrians. This despite the fact that the steps sit directly across from a tree-lined, statue-enhanced midway that is the natural axis of approach for anyone walking to (or away from) the museum. As you can see in the photo above, pedestrians have simply worn a "desire path" through the grass leading to the point where the crosswalk belongs. From there, they risk life and limb dashing across to the museum. This is an especially popular route for joggers, who also like to do the Rocky thing.

The situation isn't any better on the opposite side of this midway, actually a long pedestrian island in the middle of the Parkway. There is no provision made for pedestrians looking to cross from this island to the tree-lined promenade on the west side of the Parkway. Walkers are forced to navigate three (count em'!) separate islands unconnected by crosswalks before getting to this path. It looks like this:

dscn5023


The result, as you can see below, is constant jaywalking across a very busy road. In just a minute or two of watching, I witnessed about a dozen individuals playing real-time Frogger to make the crossing.

dscn5026

dscn5027

It's dangerous, of course, and that's a serious issue that should be addressed. But the fact that the automobile is so privileged over both walking and mass transit is a message I find especially disappointing, particularly insofar as it further removes the museum from the city, and the PMA is pretty well separated from Philly to begin with. It would be nice for Philly to make it a bit more accessible.
Share This Story

RELATED POSTS


Journey’s End: Wim Wenders in Texas


Resilience in Red Hook


Someone Else's Shangri La


Mapping Liberty Plaza


Solitude in Dark Trees



LOG IN TO POST A COMMENT
Don't have an account? Create an account. Forgot your password? Click here.

Email


Password




|
Share This Story



Mark Lamster is the architecture critic of the Dallas Morning News and a professor at the University of Texas at Arlington School of Architecture. A contributing editor to Architectural Review, he is currently at work on his third book, a biography of the late architect Philip Johnson. Follow: @marklamster.
More >>

DESIGN OBSERVER JOBS