YOUTH AREA | Centennial Commons
The Centennial Commons Plan and park designs aim to bring new life to a historically significant portion of land at the heart of Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park. The revered site of the 1876 World’s Fair and Centennial Exhibition the parklands have suffered from neglect and heavy recreational use. Celebrating the spirit of discovery exemplified at the Exhibition, the revitalization of the site is achieved through the introduction of active and passive recreational spaces directed at the neighboring multi-generational community.
The Centennial Exposition of 1876 celebrated the 100-year anniversary of US independence, bringing almost ten million visitors to Philadelphia’s newly formed Fairmount Park. Designed to showcase the United States’ industrial and innovative prowess, the Exhibition featured over 200 buildings set on over 450 acres of parkland, featuring displays from around the country and world.
Intended as a temporary installation, all but two of the Expo’s buildings were dissembled in 1877, leaving a vast open park space now known as the “Centennial District” (CD). The Philadelphia Zoo took up residence in 1874 just to the east of the district, and since then several other important cultural venues have made their home here, including the Horticulture Center, Shofuso - the Japanese Tea House, the Mann Music Center, and most recently the Please Touch Museum, which occupies Memorial Hall, one of the original remaining buildings at the heart of the CD.
Despite having a wealth of cultural and recreational amenities, the Centennial District today also hosts vast tracts of land with weak linkages to the adjoining neighborhoods.
The already-built Parkside Edge is the first phase of the Centennial Commons, creating a stronger connection across Parkside Avenue. Phase two, the Youth Area, is on the drawing board. Circumscribed by a meandering path, this zone features naturalistic planted hillsides inscribed with play “rooms” that provide prospect over Memorial Hall, Kelly Pool and the adjacent Smith Memorial. A skating circuit in the winter months, the path becomes a scrim of water in the summer where families can relax and cool off. Water jets, an open lawn, a small pavilion and a picnic grove nestled in the trees provide a welcoming recreational space adjacent to Kelly Pool and Memorial Hall. A wet meadow at the base of Smith Memorial provides a place for exploration of nature, while slowly releasing stormwater to the existing rain garden across 41st Street.