Morning Headlines: Saffron Crashes the Dilworth Praise Party

The critic is not impressed.

Renderings are beginning to meet reality.

Maybe she liked the renderings better?

The torrent of accolades for the city’s newest public (well, “public,” but more on that in a second) park continued through the weekend … right until Inga Saffron’s review dropped on Sunday.

Saffron begins innocuously enough, praising the cafe and popular spray fountain. Things start to turn when she italicizes the word “park.” Uh oh. Then the death blow:

But the vast granite prairie is still very much a plaza, with all the weaknesses the word implies.

To be clear, Saffron had no love for the park’s predecessor. And she does concede that the CCD has made some major improvements:

There is no doubt that this important civic space, once a smelly, run-down municipal embarrassment in the heart of Philadelphia, has been greatly improved by the Center City District’s Paul Levy, who marshaled a dream team of Philadelphia’s most renowned designers and engineers. The amenities, from the food vendor to the picnic lawn, are reason enough to applaud.

But what follows is a thorough catalog of the park’s deficiencies. Most of all, she seems offended by the amount of hardscape. The park misses the mark when it comes to balancing its position as Philadelphia’s “communal family room” while maintaining enough pomp for the city’s “civic stage,” Saffron says.

Yes, there is real magic when the fountain’s jets of water shoot into action, but inactivated, the granite landscape is dry and stiff. The new Dilworth is a suit in a jeans-and-T-shirt world.

She wishes the aesthetic had hewn closer to the city’s proliferating beer gardens and laments that even when the lawns are fully installed (by Thanksgiving or so), the overall effect will still be too stodgy. She is also none-too-thrilled with the CCD’s heavy hand in policing the behavior at the rest of the park. She even saves some shade for the headhouses leading down to the SEPTA turnstiles. Watch out on hot days, she warns. The glass seems to be heating up the metal rails to an almost untenable degree.

Finally, her review ends on a note of criticism that is beginning to sound familiar for Dilworth: the quasi-privatization of public land and the quasi-despotism of the CCD. You can get that zinger by reading the entire review yourself, which we seriously suggest.

Changing Skyline: Dilworth Park has many irresistible features, but it’s stiff, uncomfortable [Inquirer]

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