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Painting the Lot

Painting the Lot

Courtesy LRSLA Studio

In 1972, artist Gene Davis painted a parking lot in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art with vibrant stripes for the art installation Franklin’s Footpath. Four decades later, Philadelphia is repainting the lot, not for art, but as an experiment in public space. A pop-up park carved from a parking lot inside Eakins Oval at the northwest terminus of Benjamin Franklin Parkway opened on July 17 as a temporary intervention to activate the disused space that will test the  

Gene Davis’ art installation, Franklin’s Footpath, in 1973 (left). A view of the parking lot from the Philadelphia Museum of Art before it was converted into a park (right).
Dick Swanson / Courtesy U.S. National Archives; Emily Barney /

Rendering of the Oval.
Courtesy LRSLA Studio
 

“The parking lot is a huge scar on the Oval,” said Skafte. “The only way to make a transformative change would be to hide it, and paint was an obvious choice.” At the Oval, LRSLA divided the lot into three segments—a beach, blanket, and boardwalk—and local nonprofit Mural Arts applied several layers of paint to create patterns for each area. The beach includes large sand pits, spray misters, and lifeguard chairs; the blanket is filled with chairs, tables with umbrellas, and a variety of games; and the boardwalk includes added seating and space for food trucks. Events in the Oval include concerts, movie nights, and a beer garden.

  
The Oval under construction.
Courtesy The Oval /

Site plan of Eakins Oval.
Courtesy LRSLA Studio
 

Infrastructure construction including power and water lines began in late June and painting began in early July. The park will close for Labor Day to accommodate a Jay-Z concert, Skafte said, but will later reopen in a limited way for several more weeks. In November, the park will be repainted and returned to a parking lot. If the project is successful, however, the Oval could see similar transformations in the future.


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