BENJAMIN FRANKLIN PARKWAY IN PHILADELPHIA: A STUDY OF THE FORCES BEHIND ITS CREATION AND EVOLUTION (CITY BEAUTIFUL, AMERICAN, DESIGN, PENNSYLVANIA)
This dissertation endeavors to explain the causality and the theoretical principles behind those forces which shaped the conceptual and architectural evolutions of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia. It is maintained that these evolutions were in one way or another intertwined with the spatial and socio-economic developments of the city and country since their foundations.
The destruction of public open spaces in the city and the creation of Fairmount Park during the nineteenth century laid the groundwork for the conception of a "functional approach" from the congested center city to the vast open grounds of the Park. John Penington in 1871 and Charles Kline Landis in 1884 became the pioneers of this concept. Landis made a major contribution to the American planning tradition with his diagonal scheme. The latter previsioned the ideals of the City Beautiful movement a decade before Chicago's World Fair of 1893. Landis was also the true originator of the idea for the present Parkway's design.
The newly generated wealth, power and tastes in Philadelphia coupled with the unprecedented economic rivalry among the industrialized American metropolises incited a new concept for the Parkway by the turn of the century. The reformist economic leaders and designers depicted the Parkway as an urban element that could represent the new potentials of Philadelphia to the world. Lacking a sophisticated urbanistic culture, Philadelphia's leaders turned to two French neoclassicist architects, Paul P. Cret (1907) and Jacques Greber (1917) to develop--for the first time--architectural plans for Philadelphia's "urban cultural center." However, although Philadelphia's Champs-Elysees was near completion by 1929, its progress stagnated during the Depression years: the 1930s and 1940s.
The post-World War II urban renewal strategy of center city's reorganization instigated the latest evolution in the concept of the Parkway. The shift in center city's economy from industry to services (which supported the policy of keeping Philadelphia as the dominant regional center) started tremendous adjustments in center city's physical and social structures. The Parkway, which was being envisaged as an integral part of center city, thus also went through significant physical and later social adaptations and integrations.
Since the peak of the post-World War II reformist era, then, the new concept of the Parkway as a "regional cultural forum" grew stronger as Philadelphia's center city emerged as the regional locus for various transactional, social and cultural activities.