Pearl Street, a narrow, four-block alleyway, centrally located in the Chinatown North neighborhood of Philadelphia, was the focal point for this year’s DesignPhiladelphia theme, Shift Everything. The tiny trash-strewn, passageway has become a pivotal point for changing attitudes of people living in a neighborhood in flux.
On one end, there’s the rejuvenated Goldtex factory building, which has been converted into high-end apartments. On the other side, there’s the Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission which focuses on the needs of the homeless and disadvantaged. “We’ve been working on two elements. One has been to really try to envision what the physical environment of Pearl Street could be. The other is really to think of the alleyway as a symbol of an opportunity to connect people,” said Gayle Isa, Executive Director of Asian Arts Initiative.
Perhaps the most interesting section is where the Reading Viaduct crosses over Pearl Street, creating a tunnel which can be viewed as both an eyesore and a point of interest. The point of DesignPhiladelphia’s Pearl Street Passage was to shift focus to the idea of the Rail Park and the potential activity it could bring to the neighborhood. Through a grant received by Asian Arts Initiative, DesignPhiladelphia assembled 10 teams of designers, architects, and fabricators with the goal to reimagine Pearl Street as an interactive public space. Urban Video Productions, a service provided by Urban Engineers, documented the 10 teams from the conceptions of design, to the implementation of the installations on Pearl Street. Project leaders Luke Cloran and Dave D’Alba were inspired by teams’ collaboration and dedication. “They turned a back ally in Philly into something inspirational. I feel extremely privileged to have interacted with the individuals that made this possible,” said D’Alba.
During the process of interviewing the teams, the UVP crew traveled across the Philadelphia region, to visit new places. “I got to visit an Ice Sculptor’s studio called Fear No Ice, an amazing woodworking building at the Challenge Program, and Joe and Vinny’s Metal, Inc., all of which I had no idea existed,” said Cloran. “It was one of those projects where I was doing exactly what I love to do.”