A Knight Cities Update
As many of you know, we’ve been making changes to the under-utilized spaces around Bok’s exterior as part of a 2015 grant from the Knight Foundation’s inaugural Knight Cities Challenge. This work on the exterior of the building has happened concurrently with the work we’ve done inside the building (and on the roof). It’s all part of what makes this project complex, challenging and exciting.
When we first applied to the Knight Cities Challenge, we started with an idea inspired by Edward Bok, the building’s namesake and longtime former editor of Ladies’ Home Journal. In an era of staid drawing rooms and formal parlors, he coined the term ‘living room,’ singing its praises as a more democratic and less formal gathering space in the home.
This idea has continued to drive the project throughout the research, design and construction processes. The ‘South Philly Stoop’ adopts this ethos in its interpretation of a public living room, taking cues from the many communities that compose our slice of South Philadelphia. We’ve reached out to our neighbors, recorded their stories with the help of StoryCorps, held engagement sessions with students at Southwark, and observed how people have used the space in the past to think about how these new public spaces can best serve this area and the people who call it home.
Home is the theme that has stood out in all of this. This neighborhood is home to so many - both young and old, both longtime residents and relative newcomers. The public works at Bok are a celebration of this, promoting community and the simple idea of gathering and being together. We’ve constructed and opened a dog park (on the corner of 9th and Dudley St); installed a combination bike pump / bike repair station and ten gleaming bike racks (on the northern end of 9th St near our main tenant entrance); completed work on an outdoor play space that will soon be open to the public outside of our tenant’s operating hours (directly adjacent to the dog park on 9th St); and begun construction on the stoop, a small but hardworking civic space (on the corner of 9th and Mifflin St). This series of works knits together a new public edge on 9th St, one that intends to promote a sense of generosity and openness.
The stoop will include a variety of seating options, including movable chairs, custom precast concrete benches and a carved marble stoop. Additionally, we are installing new plantings, pavers, light fixtures and a public clock near the bus stop.
We are so, so excited to deliver this project, slated to be complete by the end of September 2016! And programming is in the works – we are planning a series of events intended to bring people together in community and activity in the space. Stay tuned!