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November 2, 2020
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Chapter News

Pavilion in the Trees — A place to discover

By Modesto Bigas-Valedon | Urban Design Committee
Photo Credit: Modesto Bigas-Valedon

This post is part of our series sharing stories of urban spaces around Philadelphia that are important to Black History or otherwise feature and celebrate Black Lives.

Have you ever had the opportunity to be in a treehouse up above the ground enveloped by the lush canopy of the trees? For many young and older residents of Philadelphia, this experience is but a novelty that one can experience only by reading books or seeing them in movies or ads. How can you, especially if you live in the dense urban environment of Philadelphia? Well, if you are interested, there is such a place in Philadelphia that is free and accessible to the young and old, right at Fairmount Park.

Pavilion in the Trees is concealed among the many wonderful amenities to visit in Fairmount Park. Be warned, your mobile device will only get you close, and if you’re driving by, you will miss it. Pavilion in the Trees is a public art piece conceived in 1981 and completed in 1993 as part of a collaboration between artist by Martin Puryear [1] and Samuel Morris, an architect and structural engineer, who was also a founding partner at Kieran, Timberlake & Harris — now Kieran Timberlake.

Pavilion in the Trees is part of a larger collection of art pieces by Black and African American artists in Philadelphia supported by the Association for Public Art. The art installation was inspired by the childhood longing for a tree house.[2] The piece consists of an open wood structure supported by a series of posts overlooking a creek and embedded in the tree canopy. It is a destination for contemplation and a place to establish a more intimate connection to nature — not just see it but to be a part of.

Notations:

[1] Excerpt from: Smithsonian American Art Museum website. Martin Puryear is one of the most important American sculptors working today, Martin Puryear (born 1941) is known for refined, handmade constructions, primarily in wood. Puryear’s abstract forms, while evocative and familiar, elude specific or singular interpretations. Puryear’s signature mastery of material and mixing of minimalism and traditional craft has established him as a leading voice, exploring both public and private narratives of objects, experiences, and identity.

Website: https://americanart.si.edu/artist/martin-puryear-27816

[2] Association for Public Art website: https://www.associationforpublicart.org/explore/public-art/#list/black-and-african-americans-themes/

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