Dilworth Park

Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Client: OLIN / Artist Janet Echelman

Year of Completion: 2014

Area: 4 acres


  • ASLA Award of Excellence in Urban Design, 2020
  • ASLA Pennsylvania-Delaware Chapter, Honor Award, 2018
  • Chicago Athenaeum Green Good Design Award, 2016
  • AIA Philadelphia Chapter Gold Medal, 2015
  • AIA Pennsylvania Chapter, Honor Award for Regional and Urban Design, 2012
  • AIA Philadelphia Silver Award for Design Excellence, 2011

Downtown Philadelphia’s large and iconic Dilworth Park Fountain exemplifies a collaborative vision set forth by community leaders, landscape architect OLIN, and highly acclaimed artist Janet Echelman. The commissioned public art project, titled Pulse by Echelman, consists of a fog & light show dancing across the plaza, abstractly mimicking trains entering and exiting the subway station below. Arcs and straight rows of choreographed, air propelled “fog panes” pass through complementary zones of water jets. The fog displays utilize hundreds of sequenced nozzles, illuminated by color-changing, custom-fabricated LED lighting designed by Arup. The design overlays a grid of 241 zero-depth water jets divided into six rectangular “pixels”, with critical systems documented by CMS. Each pixel is capable of independent, computer-controlled modulation, creating a playful, interactive experience.

Built above complex, existing infrastructure (a subway station is directly below), Revit models were used to help coordinate the routing of water piping, fog lines, and electrical conduit with the work of other disciplines, while utilizing an interstitial volume with a depth of only 18 inches.

Sustainability is promoted through equipment and technologies that reduce water and energy usage. The filtration system uses a non-backwashing filter that self-cleans without wasting water, and it achieves energy savings by modulating its pump speed to produce only the required operating point as conditions vary. Additional energy savings comes from variable speed controllers on all feature pumps; they provide the water jets with only the flow needed at every point in their choreography.

OLIN designed the park to support a variety of uses throughout the seasons. When not operating as an interactive water feature, the plaza can be covered for events such as fairs, markets, and concerts. In the winter, the water feature footprint can be transformed into an ice rink for the public to enjoy.