Momentum - Volume 1 Issue 2

Page 1

momentum VOLUME 1 Issue 2

After 25 years of grassroots growth, the Susquehanna Art Museum (SAM) finally began welcoming guests in January 2015.







VOLUME 1 Issue 2



Classic Ashburn Alley......................................... Page 4

Contemporary Susquehanna Art Museum........... Page 10

Continuing Parking Day — Garden Cloud...................................... Page 20

Beneath a towering neon Liberty Bell that complements the skyline view, Ashburn Alley is a veritable neighborhood within a city of neighborhoods.


Ashburn Alley When the Philadelphia Eagles announced they were planning to leave Veterans Stadium, it left the Philadelphia Phillies with a decision: retrofit the cavernous “Vet” for baseball or build a new ballpark. After a visit to Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the Phillies knew the latter was the only choice. And in Citizens Bank Park, they charged EwingCole with not only designing a first-rate baseball stadium, but also with creating a community gathering place within it: Ashburn Alley.

taken by David Montgomery, team Chairman and longtime President, and Bill Giles, Chairman Emeritus and former President. Giles, who came to Philadelphia in 1969 from Houston, where he helped found the Astros and move them into the landmark Astrodome, remembers, “After that visit, we changed our thinking.”

Spanning the wide outfield concourse, Ashburn Alley pays tribute to a man whose presence for half a century meant summertime to Philadelphians. As a Phillies centerfielder, Richie Ashburn won Rookie of the Year, two batting titles, five All-Star appearances, and induction to the Hall of Fame. But he endeared himself to fans as a broadcaster, along with his legendary partner Harry Kalas.

At the Orioles’ stadium, which revolutionized Major League ballpark design, one aspect stood out to Montgomery and Giles: Eutaw Street. Situated between the stands and the iconic B&O Railroad warehouse, Eutaw Street is closed to vehicular traffic and features an array of attractions and concessions as part of the ballpark experience.

Inspiration for Ashburn Alley came from a trip to Baltimore in 1993

The Phillies took additional cues from their own Single-A team in Lakewood,

NJ, where the ballpark features outfield seating on a grass berm. “Seeing how people congregate on Eutaw Street, and how people enjoy hanging out on the berm in Lakewood,” Montgomery says, “we realized there’s an element of fan who’s just very casual.” Craig Schmitt, leader of EwingCole’s Sports Practice, recognized the importance of keeping the game visible from Ashburn Alley: “We wanted a hangout place where the game would be a backdrop (but still within sight) to all of the energy and activity created by the community who come to games throughout the summer.” Beneath a towering neon Liberty Bell that complements the skyline view and rings after each Phillies homerun and victory, Ashburn Alley is a veritable neighborhood within a city of neighborhoods, even



Fans gathered in Ashburn Alley.

The unique flow through the outfield provides places to meet/ gather and still take in the game.

featuring a bona fide Philadelphia street sign, an idea that came from EwingCole principal Don Jones. It’s a familiar touch among familiar concessions— cheesesteaks, roast pork, hoagies, soft pretzels, water ice—from local institutions like Tony Luke’s and Campo’s. Philly mainstay Chickie’s & Pete’s serves its signature crab fries next to Bull’s BBQ, a carnivorous corner helmed by Greg “The

moments, it encourages a unique flow through the outfield and provides great views of the game.” Now in its 12th year, Ashburn Alley is an indelible part of the Phillies game experience, captivating fans much like its namesake did. Apropos of America’s pastime, it only happened through genuine teamwork.

The Phillies charged EwingCole with not only designing a first-rate baseball stadium, but also with creating a community gathering place within it: Ashburn Alley. Bull” Luzinski, leftfielder of the 1980 world champion Phillies. “One of the greatest memories of my life was walking through Ashburn Alley after Game 5 [which clinched the Phillies’ 2008 World Series championship],” says Mark Adams, a longtime South Philadelphian and Phillies season ticket holder. “Besides producing goosebump

“I’ve said it many times,” Montgomery remarks, “but two things that EwingCole does that not everybody does is, one, they listen, and two, they design what the client wants, not what they want. They take our ideas and come back with ways to make them better. That’s why it works.” 

Richie Ashburn Statue


Ashburn Alley is a hangout place where the game is a backdrop to all of the energy and activity created by the community.


Susquehanna Art Museum It’s hard to believe the capital of Pennsylvania did not previously have a dedicated art museum, particularly when so many notable artists have called the Keystone State home, from Calder and Cassatt to Wyeth and Warhol. But after 25 years of grassroots growth in a series of temporary and popup homes, including leased space in Harrisburg’s historic Kunkel Building and donated space from the State Museum of Pennsylvania, the Susquehanna Art Museum (SAM) finally began welcoming guests on January 16, 2015. Part new construction, part renovation, SAM uses the circa-1924 Keystone Trust Company building as a starting point, and the EwingCole Cultural team carries its scale up the block with the design of a new, two-story addition, for a 20,000 square foot building. The journey required patience, perseverance, and collaboration, as well as bipartisan support of the Capitol Building half a mile south. When SAM opened its doors, it ushered in a more permanent era for an art community in a city better known for its transient, political scene. “When you walk through the bank building, it looks great, it feels great,” says Andrew Giorgione, a longtime board member who handled much of the project’s financial detail. “When you enter the gallery, you suspend reality—you’re no longer in Harrisburg. It’s that cool.”

AN ANCHOR FOR MIDTOWN REBIRTH By 2011, Midtown Harrisburg had begun a sort of renaissance. A residential neighborhood adjacent to but distinctly different from a downtown populated by policy makers and passersby, Midtown’s comeback was built on a mix of old and new. The Broad Street Market, one of America’s oldest farmers markets, stands across from the Midtown Scholar, a voluminous independent bookstore opened in 2004 in an adapted early 20th Century movie theater. And since 2005, the locallyowned GreenWorks Development has built “Education Row,” a commingling of schools ranging from preschool to Harrisburg Area Community College. Precisely between the campus and the market stands the Keystone Trust Company building. Then owned by GreenWorks, the Keystone Trust building and its neighboring property represented an opportunity to exemplify Midtown’s organic growth: an old building with a sleek new addition.

CHALLENGES BETWEEN OLD & NEW Creating a landmark from the juxtaposition of old and new certainly incurred obstacles. Don Jones, EwingCole principal, says, “While it’s always a good thing to reuse existing building stock, the challenge is understanding exactly what the existing conditions are, particularly when lots of renovations have obscured the original state of the building, as was the case with the bank. There were no existing drawings, so careful survey was required, and even then there were surprises.” “Some of the old building techniques, such as the barrel vault slab, made through-floor penetration coordination a challenge,” explains Chantal Alvarenga, EwingCole architect. “There was also a considerable amount of effort involved to restore the original ceiling, in that a large amount of work had to be done from within the confined ceiling space for sprinklers, HVAC and electrical work.” The new addition was much easier to handle, and it intentionally coincided with the renovation of the bank. While

The Susquehanna Art Museum design juxtaposes old and new.


The former Keystone Trust Company building was transformed into a gallery and event space.

tricky adjustments were negotiated inside the old bank, planning and construction on the new building started right away. Its glass and metal panel envelope gives equal attention to the human scale of the pedestrian passerby and to the Harrisburg cityscape, including sightlines to the Capitol building. The resulting play between the two parts exceeded SAM’s expectations. “The design process with EwingCole evolved handsomely through conversation,” says Laurene Buckley, the museum’s former executive director. “The way the striations echo the columns of the bank… it’s really an amazing building.” Jones, the EwingCole principal, emphasizes the dialogue between

architect and museum. “We presented the design and planning of SAM to a small group at each stage, and again as we redesigned it near the end,” he says. “The design of the Third Street façade did have to be simplified in design, but otherwise the pattern, signage and fenestration is very much as we proposed. They liked it and were supportive.” EwingCole engineer and lighting design director Angela Matchica elaborates on the collaborative process: “We worked with SAM to establish a hierarchy of spaces and review fixture types in different areas,” she says. “We worked as a team to try and establish lighting themes that could be applied to both the bank building and the new addition for a cohesive design.”

INSIDE, A MUSEUM-QUALITY MUSEUM Inside the museum’s walls, a different goal drove the design: accreditation from the American Alliance of Museums. With 38 characteristics of excellence, AAM’s accreditation demands museum-quality programming space, proper lighting, temperature and humidity control, and vitals like financial stability, mission adherence, and educational outreach. Should SAM achieve accreditation— it can apply after the museum has operated for six months—the expanded cachet will yield access to valuable works of art held by other museums. As a non-collecting museum, that’s critical. “When you look at it, 80 to 90 percent of the art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art is in storage,” says board

member Giorgione. “This art [stored] in the dark is valuable; if you open the door, then you can work with the Warhol, the Westmoreland, the Brandywine.”

Fully restored 27-foot gold leaf ceilings, giant windows, and a working original clock.

In the same vein, a non-collecting museum opens infinite opportunity for evolving gallery design. “Not having a permanent collection is actually an asset in that it creates a completely different experience for the visitor every time,” says Tina Sell, SAM’s education manager. “That’s what makes the architecture so important in a non-collecting museum.” In effect, a non-collecting museum is a different kind of less is more. Most museums are consumed by an eternal quest for acquisitions, a pursuit requiring dedicated staff—and extra space. “If we were a collecting institution, we would have needed storage built into the design,” Buckley observes. “A permanent collection actually limits the space you have to rotate and do exciting shows. And EwingCole did a beautiful job in matching the shape of the building with the fact we’re changing constantly.” “Look at the Björk show at MOMA, James Turrell’s installations, the ways Takashi Murakami displays his work,” notes Jeff Hirsch, EwingCole principal and Cultural Practice leader. “Art is so many things. SAM needs to be able to display anything from the world of modern and contemporary art, so we considered the changing gallery to be a neutral loft—a space that would be interesting but not get in the way of an exhibition; a place that can change quickly so that SAM can respond the needs of its audience.” SAM LOOKS FORWARD After a fairly aggressive schedule, the museum opened on budget and ahead of time. The former Keystone Trust Company building has transformed into a 2,475 square foot gallery and event space with fully restored 27-foot gold leaf ceilings, giant windows, and a working original clock; the bank’s original vault has become a colorful space for kids of all ages.

The bank’s original vault has become a colorful space for kids of all ages.

The bank building gallery features regional and state artists.


When SAM opened its doors, it ushered in a more permanent era for an art community in a city better known for its transient, political scene.


The main gallery features unique polished concrete floors and 19-foot ceilings.

Through the vestibule and up a wide set of stairs showered in natural light, one reaches the pièce de résistance: the main gallery. Featuring unique polished concrete floors that recall the marble floors in the historic bank and 19-foot ceilings, the nearly 4,000 square foot main gallery is described by exhibitions manager Lauren Nye as “very transformative. It will look different every single time we open a show.” In addition to hosting SAM’s feature exhibitions, the main gallery doubles as the museum’s main event space. “That’s part of the appeal,” says Giorgione, the board member. “We want people to be able to hold their events amongst the art galleries.” “We offer something a lot of event spaces around here don’t, a sort of urban, cosmopolitan feel,” says Sell,

the education manager. “There’s a clientèle who wants to make use of the art on the walls, as opposed to waiting to use the space in between shows.” Make no mistake, the art is the draw. The main gallery, with a focus on national and international artists, debuted with Pop Open: Icons of Pop Art, an exhibition with original works by Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Indiana, Peter Max, Marisol, and Andy Warhol. The bank building gallery will feature more regional and state artists, including at least one annual group show juried by Pennsylvania artists. Its inaugural show featured drawings and sculpture by Harry Bertoia, the Italian born artist who operated a studio in Berks County, PA. There are also two smaller gallery spaces, one adjacent to the education center and another inside the bank vault.

MIDTOWN LOOKS FURTHER As positive reviews have rolled in from outlets across Central Pennsylvania, no review quite reaches the one proffered by Joshua Kesler. “The construction of SAM was the decisive development in Midtown Harrisburg that gave me confidence to build the Millworks,” says the owner and developer of the complex with 23 artist lofts (fully occupied), a farm-to-table restaurant, a concert venue, and a beer garden. “A healthy arts and entertainment district is key to any renewal effort, and now with two large anchor projects, there’s enough critical mass to encourage other small businesses, restaurants and developers to join in the fun.” Back inside the museum, SAM has already reached out to its Midtown neighbors. The books in the gift shop? Those come directly from the Midtown Scholar, curated for current exhibitions (e.g. pop art books for the pop art show).

“The Susquehanna Art Museum is another pillar in the rebuilding of Midtown Harrisburg,” says Doug Neidich, CEO of GreenWorks. Robinson’s Rare Books and Fine Prints, housed downstairs from the Scholar, provides fine art prints for sale. Even the pastries come locally sourced—Yellow Bird Café, a block south, delivers them fresh every morning. “Midtown Harrisburg is going through an extraordinary revitalization right now,” says former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, a native Philadelphian with a keen eye for a city’s ebb and flow. “The museum fits wholly within the tenor of what’s happening in the neighborhood.”

“SAM is another pillar in the rebuilding of Midtown Harrisburg,” says Doug Neidich, CEO of GreenWorks, the company developing Education Row. “The museum is a big part of what we’re doing; we’ve got lots of curriculum discussion going with them now.” Couple SAM’s mission with the neighboring complex of schools, and the museum essentially becomes Education Row’s art department. In fact, during construction, design students from Harrisburg Area Community College visited several times for tours led by the project manager, a big hit with the students.

And all of it figures into the growth of Education Row.

“We’re throwing the net pretty wide— from a weekly preschool program for

moms to workshops and classes offered for all age ranges including adults and seniors,” says Sell. “The challenge is to do something unique or innovative as we expand our ideas of not just what kind of art to show, but how to interact with it, to embrace technology like smartphones.” The old Broad Street Market and the new Millworks; the old city streets and the new feet strolling them on their way to school. The rebirth of Midtown Harrisburg rests on an intrinsic blend of the old and the new. And at its center, supported by the State of Pennsylvania and the City of Harrisburg, an old building and its new addition provide the voice for an entire region’s art community. 


The main gallery focused on national and international artists, debuted with Pop Open: Icons of Pop Art.

Four hundred air plants straddled the walkway with small nodes of green space.


Parking Day — Garden Cloud When it began in 2005, Park(ing) Day served as a provocative commentary on the lack of public open space in San Francisco by turning parking into parklet. For two hours—the duration of a parking meter purchase—the art and design studio Rebar installed a layer of grass with a bench and a potted tree, transforming a parking space into San Francisco’s smallest, short-lived park. A decade later, it has become the model for an annual urbanist event celebrated in 162 cities worldwide. In Philadelphia, EwingCole’s 2014 contribution, “Garden Cloud,” catercorner from Independence Hall, intentionally strayed from the original. Warren Smith, EwingCole architect and leader of Garden Cloud’s team of young designers, lays out the concept: “We wanted to do something more than just roll out some sod and put up some chairs. Our cloud idea invited people to actually walk through,” he says. Participants walked on a curving path through a structure the size of one parking space, with a cubic frame of 2x4s and rows of aluminum chain across the top. From the chain hung fishing wire stacked

in a six-inch by six-inch grid. Each intersection on the grid revealed the crux of the Garden Cloud. There, 400 air plants (the kind used in a terrarium) straddled the walkway with small nodes of green space—each one a souvenir that participants could take with them. When a plant was removed, a small LED light replaced it, an act that eventually turned the three-dimensional mini-garden into a floating cloud of lights. Each recipient also plotted their home on a digital map. The distribution of map pins represented the dissipation of a cloud from its dense core outward into thin air. In turn, the installation became a physical manifestation of Park(ing) Day’s temporary nature, but took it further with lasting, breathing evidence. This unique approach attracted many visitors. Office workers were curious about the unusual addition to their street; they took their new plants home to other parts of Philadelphia, the suburbs, and across the region. Tourists mapped their

homes not only across America—in Boca Raton and Park(ing) Day’s home San Francisco, for example— but across the globe in Germany, Australia, and Denmark. Jeff Hirsch, EwingCole’s Cultural practice leader, took note of the commingling. Of Garden Cloud, he says, “the design is a quirky take on how civic spaces work—a spectacle that appealed to both office workers and tourists. Those communities tend to keep to themselves in this neighborhood, but the team found a way to connect them on Parking Day.” Melanie Whedon, EwingCole junior architect, was also thrilled by the turnout. “It was really engaging for pedestrians walking by,” she says. “Every time someone came by they’d ask what we were doing, and we’d encourage people to walk through, take a plant, put a pin on the map.” Jon Geeting, a reporter for Plan Philly, has covered Park(ing) Day for years. He especially liked EwingCole’s 2014 effort. “Park(ing) Day itself is kind of


Participants walked on a curving path through a structure the size of one parking space.

The design is a quirky take on how civic spaces work— a spectacle that appealed to both office workers and tourists. Those communities tend to keep to themselves in this neighborhood, but the team found a way to connect them on Parking Day.

Architect sketches - “Garden Cloud”

a radical idea, that one day a year, we can use this part of the street for something other than an idle car, for something fun,” he says. “Most installations have activities and seating, but [EwingCole’s] was weird and different. I love the idea of making a beautiful space in the street—having that make the statement.” In order to make that happen, the team had to turn around a suitable design on a short schedule with high scrutiny. In a sense, it was a lot like a college project. “We’ve been used to that timetable from school,” says project leader Smith. “So to be able to see something through quickly on this side [after college], it was a really great exercise.” Whedon, then a new intern, adds, “it was also really good for me because I didn’t know anyone at EwingCole yet, and I made some friends that day.” Kevin Malawski joined EwingCole in the same wave of new hires and interns as Whedon. “For what it was, it was a pretty elegant design,” he says of Garden Cloud. “And we got a lot of support from the firm.” One office veteran proved indispensable in his support. “[EwingCole principal] Bob McConnell was a great cheerleader for us. As soon as the design started to come together, he could see where it was

going and knew that it could be something good,” says Smith. McConnell, EwingCole’s Director of Architecture, saw Park(ing) Day as an important creative exercise for the junior staffers. “I’ve always been a believer in exploring beyond the client-centric work we do, whether in art or installations or competitions; it uses a different part of your brain,” he explains. “And while something like this isn’t restricted to age, of course, but younger folks are more apt to embrace the design opportunity.”

International plant distribution

Malawski credits McConnell with drumming up interest amongst peers, too: “He really was integral to the process. Once things started to take shape, he helped people get excited.” That translated to a big group of volunteers from across architecture, engineering, and interior design disciplines, and an even bigger audience from folks from the office who walked down to see the finished product.

National plant distribution

“For someone like me who’d just come out of school and never actually built something I designed, it was a really rewarding process,” says Whedon. “We wanted people to experience something, not just see something” says Smith of the project. And those who walked through Garden Cloud took home both an experience and a new plant for their home. 

Local plant distribution


Warren Smith Architect/Garden Cloud Team Leader

Jeff Hirsch Cultural Practice Leader

Melanie Whedon Junior Architect

Kevin Malawski Junior Architect

Bob McConnell Director of Architecture

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