Behind the lens of the Rail Park project
Rail Park is an upcoming project that will transform the abandon rail lines that run throughout the city in two different areas; from Vine Street to 13th and Noble Streets to the west; and to the 800 block of Fairmount to the east. The master plan is to transform these forgotten plateaus of ‘nature’ into a three-mile park that will serve as a connector to landmark sections of Philadelphia.
Since 2003-2004 the Rail Park project has been a tossed around idea, beginning first with proposed designs created by heads from both the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University. But it wasn’t until 2010, after large contributions from the William Penn Foundation and Poor Richard’s Charitable Trust, that helped turn it from a dream into a tangible idea. The Center City District gathered a team of expert consultants, including a group from New York City’s High Line, and they went to work on construction ideas. Ten years later, things are finally in full motion. This year, 2014, is the year that Rail Park is slated to begin construction.
The Rail Park is an idea that's not hard to support, but without the project’s visual team how can the they get the local community get behind it? Maps, photographs, illustrations, brand elements, 3D renderings and videos have played a huge part in visualizing what this massive undertaking will one day become. In the beginning of December, the Good Motion Project, the team responsible for a majority of the design assets (minus anything related to the architectural side of things) associated with the RVP, showcased a short film about the project as part of a fundraising event at Union Transfer. Local live music performances from rapper Spank Rock and Sun Ra Arkestra were the big attraction. “I was a little nervous about how this six minute documentary would go over with Philly's ’passionate’ music scene,” said Dan King, one of the creative heads involved with Good Motion Project. The video premiered earlier that night to a modest crowd, so they decided to screen it again once the larger concert crowd had shuffled in. “I watched from the back in the top balcony as the whole room focused their attention to the screen. We shot aerial footage and used satellite imagery in the film and I think it was the first time a lot of people in the audience were able to appreciate the scale of this enormous structure that cuts through our city.” Local school children, community members, representatives for the project and well-known folks like former Governor of Pennsylvania Ed Rendell and Mayor Michael Nutter all lent their face and voice to the short, providing positive words of change and growth in support of Rail Park.
If you’re familiar with Philadelphia’s contemporary art scene, you may already know Dan. This Drexel grad is the guy behind Stupid Easy Gallery, located in the heart of Old City, and has worked on countless visual projects for Visit Philly, Mural Arts, Philly.com, and a number of local creatives and musicians like Duke & Winston and DRGN KING. The gallery now functions primarily as a work studio space and King has refocused his efforts on new projects, instead of gallery shows. In college, Dan would consume much of his days exploring the metropolitan college campus. “I would spend a lot of my free time exploring the urban landscape,” he says. “With camera in-tow I would mountain bike deep into Fairmount Park or wander the massive corridors of City Hall. I’m really fascinated by the history and culture of this city.” So it’s no surprise that he’s managed to involve himself is some of the city’s coolest local projects.
It’s always been King’s passion to create video work that’s locally focused, so when he grouped up with his buddies Jonathin Rubin and Jon Chicot, who both work at Studio Nine Photography, they needed to kick it off with something big. “We had a meeting and picked an inspiring project we felt needed a more visual approach. Jonathan Rubin had met the Friends of the Rail Park team at a Design Philly event earlier that week and contacted them to get the ball rolling.” The rest is history. They began shooting in October, filming a few times a week leading up to the big fundraiser. In those few months they managed to secure the on screen interviews, shoot on the ground, and film using a remote controlled helicopter for the difficult aerial shots that would help “illustrate the shear size of the structure.” After hurdling passed the initial learning curve (and suffering some crash landings), they were able to successfully film from challenging heights. “I think Philadelphians are ready for a large green space project like this,” Dan says. “It's an elegant curve on top of our gridded street system. This opens all kinds of opportunities for creative architecture and challenges the designers to make a subterranean space beautiful and safe.”
Along with independent Philly-based groups, like architecture design firm The OLIN Studio, Studio Bryan Hanes, and the Good Motion Project, the Rail Park’s essential beginning elements are coming together. Good Motion has taken responsibility for covering the photographic, video, web and graphic design work for the project and plans to continue documenting until the final and completed stages. Dan has hopes of creating a full documentary on Rail Park once it’s completed.