Monday, April 27, 2009
The Life of Great American Philly
I had a chance to visit another cool market: the Italian Market in Philly. This one, like Eastern Market's outdoor sidewalk layout, demonstrates and teaches how these markets can simply make awesome use of sidewalk space. Very simple. Vendors take over the parking spaces and sale their produce to the passing public on the sidewalks, sheltered by awnings. In a way, the value of a sidewalk truly realized, bringing support and vitality to the shops along the street. The Italian Market must be one of the most organically developed little farmer's markets in an urban area in existence. I was summarily impressed by the diversity (in age, ethnicity and income) and vitality of South Philly's neighborhoods. It was also more instruction that mixed use environments really thrive with dense neighborhoods along narrow streets. No open space is needed...Hence, to me, Philly is a remarkable lesson in Jane-Jacobs-style urbanism.
Speaking of which, I also had a chance to visit Philly's three "Jane Jacobs" parks for the first time: Rittenhouse Sq.(shown above), Washington Sq., and Franklin Sq.. I've only previously known these parks from Ch. 5 of Death and Life of Great American Cities and so it was an interesting compare and contrast journey to experience them. They have each changed greatly from the time Jane Jacobs wrote about them. Rittenhouse is a pure people watching paradise, a condensed Central Park...Like the public arenas one experiences in Europe, where people gather just to revel in the presence of people. Washington Sq., the "Pervert Park" has become Jane Jacobs's pram-loving Rittenhouse Sq...The place where mommas with kiddos go to hang out. And Franklin Sq., the "Skid Row Park" has a restored fountain, immense playground and carousel that caters to exclusively to kids. I viewed a birthday party in progress when I visited. I wonder where the homeless have relocated. Interestingly, the parks in South Philly are mostly dedicated to active uses and playfields. No neighborhood parks needed (although there are some...which were rather depopulated, for many of the same reasons Jane observed about the former state of Franklin and Washington Squares). Interesting to think and dwell on many contrasts along my walks around Philly, surely, soon to dethrone DC and NYC as the coolest city in the East (if it hasn't already...I'm sure Philly's residents would rather keep that information to themselves)...Check it out!...