Philadelphians have been waiting patiently for a peek behind the construction curtain surrounding LOVE Park since it was closed for renovation last February. And starting in November, they’ll get a sneak preview.
The park reopens for one month starting on Thanksgiving. But it’ll be all dressed up for the holidays, playing host to Christmas Village, the annual Center City setup modeled after a German Christmas market. The renovation won’t be officially finished until spring, but even the holiday preview will go a long way toward filling the renovated park’s purpose: breaking down the edges that made the old LOVE Park—or JFK Plaza, as it’s officially known—feel so separated from the city.
“The idea was to make it more permeable, which is different from the era in which it was designed,” says Mary Margaret Jones, a senior principal at Hargreaves Associates, which led the redesign of LOVE Park.
Jones says that one of the key principles for the redesign was to allow “flexibility of use,” so that the park will be welcoming for daily visitors and tourists as well as appropriate for an occasional seasonal festival. Rather than a sunken plaza, like the old, concrete park, Hargreaves opted for a “simple, tipped plane” that will maintain the view from the LOVE sculpture up the Parkway to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The trick was to make the park more connected to its surroundings while maintaining the feel of an oasis.
“People wanted it greener, more open, multi-use,” Jones says, referring to a series of studies Hargreaves did before completing the design. “But they also wanted the sort of legacy of that fountain jet…and the participation it plays with the series of fountains that march down the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.”
The LOVE Park fountain will remain, but in a different form, with lights rather than dye to change the colors of the water—“no longer the Miami swimming pool effect,” Jones says. When the park officially opens in the spring, it will be greener, planted with various flowers, trees and shrubs selected for their durability in the urban environment. And the flying-saucer-looking visitor center at the southwest corner of the park will be open to the public too, so you can sit on its balcony and take it all in.