The Conflicting Needs of Tourists and Residents

A new Independence Mall stands in the historic heart of Philadelphia, a decade after the old mall's demolition. According to <em>The Inquirer's</em> Inga Saffron, the new space has been a major boon for tourists but has alienated many city residents.
December 27, 2010, 10am PST | Emily Laetz
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How to best design a public space that caters to both the needs of tourists and city residents has long been a definitive, challenging question for architects and urban designers. When that space happens to be Independence Mall, the home of landmarks at the center of American history such as Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, that question becomes even thornier. According to Saffron, The Philadelphia Inquirer's Architecture Critic, the balance of the newly redesigned public space at Independence Mall is skewed heavily in favor of the tourists, which has turned off many residents from growing affectionate towards it.

Writes Saffron:

"The ambitious mall renovation, planned by Philadelphia architects Laurie D. Olin and Bernard Cywinski, was launched with two big, yet distinct, objectives: The first was to turn the desultory historic area into a powerful tourist magnet. The designers also sought to repair the cruel gash that had been cut into the city's oldest, and most architecturally rich, neighborhood when the three blocks were razed to create the mall in the '50s."

"As hoped, the historic area has been reinvigorated, with two million visitors annually, up from 650,000 in the mid-'90s."

"But of the companion goal of suturing those blocks back into the grid, and reintegrating them into the swirl of urban life, the project has fallen short. If anything, the mall remains as cut off from its surroundings as ever."

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Published on Sunday, December 26, 2010 in The Philadelphia Inquirer
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