Dilworth Park

Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Client: Olin / Artist Janet Echelman

Year of Completion: 2014

Area: 4 acres


  • AIA Philadelphia Silver Medal
  • AIA Philadelphia Honor Award

Downtown Philadelphia’s large and iconic Dilworth Plaza Fountain is a unique installation—the realization of a vision set forth by community leaders, a commissioned artist, and a landscape architect. Built on complicated existing infrastructure (an existing train station is directly below), Revit models were used to help coordinate the routing of fog lines, water piping, and electrical conduit with the work of other disciplines—while utilizing an interstitial volume with a depth of only 450mm. The design is based on a grid of zero-depth water jets divided into six rectangular zones, each capable of playful, independent, computer controlled modulation. With the fog elements being a public art project created from the visual palate of artist Janet Echelman, and with critical systems documented by CMS, the project’s next build phase will provide two linear rows and an arc of choreographed, air propelled “fog panes” – each passing through the currently operating zones of water jets. The fog displays will utilize hundreds of sequenced nozzles, and will be illuminated by colored, computer controlled low-energy lighting. A fog/light show will be the result, abstractly mimicking train traffic below as trains enter and exit the subway station on the Orange, Blue, and Green lines.

Sustainability is promoted by using a non-backwashing filter that self-cleans without wasting water, while saving energy by modulating its pump speed to produce only the required pressure as conditions change between regeneration cycles. Likewise, variable speed pump controllers are used to provide the jet zones with only the pressure needed at any particular point in their choreography, further saving energy. Finally, the footprint of the fountain can be transformed into an ice skating rink during the winter season.