The calm grandeur of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway is one of Philadelphia's most memorable symbols, and it is also a real and vital contributor to our daily lives. The animated digital sign for which the Franklin Institute is seeking a city variance will damage this valuable asset.
The durable vision that has guided the making of the Parkway through many decades - and many vicissitudes - was crystalized in the lively perspectives and gigantic, colored plans that the city planner Jacques Gréber made in 1917-19. His concept of the Parkway as a "green wedge" of park land, bringing some of the tranquillity and openness of Fairmount Park into the core of the city, proved successful. So the Parkway's practical and aesthetic values are protected by law.
During all of the decades that the Parkway has been a work in progress, almost all of its new buildings and improvements have respected these core values. These include the most recent achievements: the restoration of the Rodin Museum and its garden, the building of the new Barnes in its own serene gardens, the comprehensive refurbishment of the Parkway landscape from 20th Street to Eakins Oval, and the greening of Dilworth Plaza that is now under way.
City zoning officials should not approve the variance that the Franklin Institute requests. Even that great institution has more to gain - and do we all - from the preservation of the legacy of wise thinking that governs the Parkway.