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Functional Art @ Rittenhouse Square

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The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia contacted RethinkTANKllc over the summer with an amazing opportunity: to place our “Gilded Gates” bike racks at Rittenhouse Square in honor of Mayor Nutter.  During his tenure, which will come to a close in January, Mayor Nutter has been an incredible advocate for bicycling and sustainability.  His accomplishments include the creation of a permanent Office of Sustainability whose mission is to make Philadelphia the greenest city in the nation.  That new office in coordination with the Mayor's Department of Transportation and Utilities, has successfully added many miles of bike lanes and new trails, including the treasured Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk, implemented a very successful bike share program, coordinated with numerous citizen activist groups and non-profits to further bike culture and bike safety in the city and devised a master plan to continue these efforts beyond his time in political office. In 2013, the Bicycle Coalition partnered with the Mayor’s Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy and The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation on a competition to commission artist-designed bike racks in Center City. “Gilded Gates” was conceived in response to that competition.

The site adjacent to Rittenhouse Square is incredible and will be seen and used by thousands of people each year; hopefully including you.  We have commitments from all related City departments.  All we need to do now is fund raise for the fabrication and installation costs.  Your donation will add functional beauty to one of the finest urban public spaces in the US. A plaque that will read, "Citizens' gift in honor of Mayor Michael A. Nutter and his dedication to bicycle culture in Philadelphia," will be placed adjacent to this rack specifically designed for this purpose. To learn more about the concept read on.

The Gilded Gates celebrate Philadelphia’s legendary ironwork and provide security for bicycles.

The painted gold, water jet cut filigree set inside the black frame showcases the City’s ironwork legacy, and reinforces the historical and urban value and site contexuality of the Gilded Gates.

Using historic documentation and modern technology, forgotten ironwork patterns are reborn to serve as urban edges with a functional twist. Artisans like Samuel Yellin, Frank Furness, John Haviland and Horace Trumbauer designed magnificent ironwork in Philadelphia that has been collected and preserved in art institutions across the nation. Their creative output, coupled with the past three centuries of urban metal work, gave the City a decoratively appealing, yet functional, edging. Throughout the past 300 years, the City has lost much of its ironwork edge, so to speak, due to poor maintenance, neglect, theft or sale. Often, the urban edges once defined by ironwork have lost their demarcation, or are redefined in pragmatic chainlink. This project returns the decorative glory that has defined the edges of our City for generations.

Gilded Gates abstracts traditional ironwork patterns into a contemporary form, giving each rack site contextuality and meaning. Furthermore, the patterns delight the eye and, when mingled with the secured bicycles, cast shadows that create a fascinating complexity and decoration upon the sidewalk. Additionally, the scale of each rack and its finish recall vernacular bike racks, therefore eliminating cyclist confusion over a new urban amenity. Although it is an obvious bike rack, it avoids the kitsch factor of an over scaled, one-liner, literal object outline.

The welded waterjet black framework provides a consistent outline to all of the mounted racks and ample security for locking. Additionally, the circular rings at the top corners allow locking cables to pass through them. Perhaps more appropriately, the rings provide an ideal place to tie a dog leash for a quick visit to a local shop, making it ideal for the cyclist or the pedestrian with a pet in tow.

Gilded Gates also provide innate psychological security to their users. When polled, most cyclists prefer to lock their bicycles either to street signage or railings. Building owners tend to frown upon bicyclists using their entryway railings as racks. The Gilded Gates subvert that culture and provide an alternative.

The Gilded Gates encapsulate all that is compelling about Philadelphia-- its history, craft, scale and complexity.


  • Nathaniel Popkin
    • $100 
    • 8 yrs
  • Jack & Linda Gottfried
    • $20 (Offline)
    • 9 yrs


Jason Lempieri
Philadelphia, PA

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