Urban Design and Interior Design

Cities are increasingly seeking to encourage culture-related uses in particular areas, often designated as ‘cultural quarters’, to achieve regeneration outcomes, and public art is often applied in such quarters in order to promote place image and to enhance local identity. However, it may be argued that these aims are potentially contradictory, since the image that is projected may not necessarily reflect local identity. This is a critical issue in view of the need to achieve regeneration outcomes that are inclusive, broadly based and context sensitive.

Nevertheless, the cases of public art schemes in Manchester’s Northern Quarter and Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter suggest that it is feasible to integrate aims in relation to image and identity by means of public art, and that the use of historical associations can provide a valuable means of linking image and identity. The relation between conventional public art and urban development is one of complicity, whilst emerging practices of art offer resistance to conceptualizations of the city which exclude the interests of its inhabitants. Two roles for art are suggested: as decoration within a re-versioned field of urban design in which the needs of users are central, and as a social process of criticism and engagement, defining them. Critical visual analysis of two popular murals reveals that when ethnic community members are empowered in producing self-representations, the resulting artwork counters dominant media images and constitutes new modes and themes of resistance for disenfranchised communities. Interpretive analysis of mural production processes and audience reception extends communication theory about cultural identity by suggesting how visual representations of cultural group members serve as sites of identity negotiation. The groundbreaking percent-for-art programs were created in Philadelphia in 1959, and since that time, many cities have improved upon Philadelphia’s legislation.

Both the Redevelopment Authority’s Percent for Fine Arts and the City of Philadelphia’s Percent for Art programs are 50 years old, and earlier this year, City Council approved a resolution recognizing the 50th anniversary of these landmark programs and their contribution to Philadelphia’s built environment. Their legislation was created when site-specific sculpture was considered an important antidote to the dehumanizing impact of the urban redevelopment era. While these programs were groundbreaking in their day, serving as national models for subsequent percent programs, they now reflect the urban renewal philosophies of an earlier time and struggle in a challenging environment for integrating quality art and urban development. Rethinking these programs for the 21st century is an urgent necessity. This could include earmarking public art dollars for ongoing maintenance and conservation of the collection, creating developer-funded, non-site-specific art funds, and funding temporary art installations that reenergize public spaces and cultivate a new civic pride and tourism base.

Ensuring that developers and public agencies both comply with the current legislation and integrate high-quality art from a project’s outset — and do not relegate it to an afterthought — should be a baseline goal. Public art has the potential to play a major role in a city’s cultural and economic development policy. Public art is just one facet of an increasingly prevalent understanding that arts and cultural assets are key economic revitalization drivers that can create jobs, increase the tax base, build wealth and enhance the overall well-being of residents. Many cities have proven that public art can drive tourism, anchor redevelopment projects, enhance a city’s image and drive community development. William Strickland was a notable architect in Philadelphia that had major contributions to the architecture and public art in Philadelphia. He was born in Navesink, New Jersey. His father was a carpenter and a member of the Practical House Carpenters’ Society. William’s father worked on the Bank of Pennsylvania which exposed William to the attention of Benjamin Latrobe. Benjamin was the architect of the bank. William apprenticed with Latrobe for two years, then he left to dive into painting. In 1815, he submitted a design for the Second Bank of the United States. Active in social and cultural affairs, Strickland was a member of the American Philosophical Society, the Franklin Institute, and the Musical Fund Society.

Despite his reputation, he lost the prestigious competitions to design Girard College to ex-student Thomas U. Walter; Laurel Hill Cemetery and the Philadelphia Athenaeum to John Notman; and the Franklin Institute to John Haviland. In 1837, a financial panic in Philadelphia curtailed all commissions, causing Strickland to head south. He died during the construction of his last major work, the State House in Nashville, Tennessee. He is entombed beneath that building, which today is featured on Tennessee license plates. One of the most notable building by William is the Second Bank of America created in 1816. The Second Bank, modeled on the Greek Parthenon, was one of the first Greek Revival buildings in the United States, and led to other commissions. It was inspired by the Parthenon in Greece and its blank pediments and Doric columns. The building itself is a work of art. Designed by architect William Strickland and built between 1819 and 1824, the Second Bank is a fine example of Greek Revival architecture. After the demise of the Bank in 1836, the building changed hands and function, eventually becoming the Custom House in Philadelphia. There were also changes to the interior and some of the exterior of the building. Little remains of the building’s original interior design except for the barrel vaulted ceiling, the marble columns in the main banking room, and the side flue fireplaces. There is also so much history with the actual bank. In the five years since the expiration of the First Bank’s charter, the federal government had struggled through the War of 1812, placing the treasury deeply into debt.

In addition, the lack of a central bank to regulate state banks led to an explosion of small banks, many of which provided credit to speculators on easy terms, thus placing the national monetary system on unsteady ground. Congress finally passed a law chartering the Second Bank of the United States, which was created to help the national treasury out of its uncomfortable financial situation and to regulate the currency. Located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the Second Bank started out with $35 million in capital. The Bank served as a place in which the government could deposit federal funds, including tax revenues. The Bank was authorized to issue as many bank notes as the president and cashier were physically able to sign, but was required to be able to pay specie for currency on demand. In addition, the Bank was exempted from taxation by any state. The Bank also performed transactions for the government at no charge, and allowed the government to appoint five of its twenty-five directors. The Secretary of the Treasury had the right to remove any government deposits, after presenting the reasons for withdrawal to Congress. For its first three years in existence, the Second Bank was poorly run. More notes were issued than could be backed by specie. Loans were made without recipients demonstrating sufficient security. The Bank almost went bankrupt in 1819 until Langdon Cheves was appointed president. After Langdon became president, the Bank was reorganized. In the end, Langdon successfully saved the Bank. Another notable building by William is the Independence Hall. It is designed in the Georgian style, “the building exhibits a sense of proportion, balance and symmetry.” But, its design is more evocative of a country house than an urban public building. The plan includes a 105-foot-long main block, two covered arcades, and two 50-foot-long wing buildings.

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