Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, September 6, 1954
Pentagon,' Lots of Ivy Give Fitler Square New Look
of Norman Rice, an architect, happens to be at 2400
Pine Street. And that's across the street from Fitler
Square, one of Philadelphia's little parks. For years,
the view from Rice's office was a pretty dismal one,
as often is the case with those little parks. What he
could see was a half acre of practically all concrete.
It had a few trees, some evergreens and the old-style
Fairmount Park type of bench, limited in seating capacity,
easily upset and moved around.
So, when Rice
had a chance to handle the job of redesigning the park,
he was happy to take it. Not the usual job for an architect
but, Rice explains, "an architect, who has a feeling
for bricks, mortar and wood, has the same feeling about
space and planting, even though he may not have the
technical knowledge of plant names."Rice set out to
make the park over. He wanted a pleasant, open green
space for neighbors and visitors, something greatly
needed in the neighborhood.
Now there are
twenty one benches, and most of them are twice as long
as the old ones. They are also fixed into the ground
to make it impossible for the over-playful to disturb
them. Three of the former six entrances have been eliminated
to give more green areas. New underground water pipes
have been brought in so plants can be watered. In selecting
the planting for a ground cover, Rice decided not to
use grass because it would be an invitation, in such
a small park, for people to walk across it and kill
it. Besides, the many large shade trees would also prevent
grass from growing.
was finally chosen because it immediately created an
overall green effect and grows well under the trees.
Because of its nature, too, people have been discouraged
from walking on it. Over 13,000 ivy plants, which remain
green all year, were planted. Purple winter-creeper
gives the edge added color. Two species of Japanese
holly were selected for the park's shrubs. Both are
evergreen. Firethorn. bushes were also planted and will
flower late in the summer.
Some of the
old diseased sycamore trees were removed and three or
four new trees of a different variety will be planted
in the fall. The only building in the square, an old
wood caretaker's shack, was replaced with one of brick.
The. architect calls it his "little 'Pentagon" since
it has five sides like the government's famous building.
says that the new beauty of the park would not have
come about without the help of others. "A lot of the
credit," Rice said, "for the rebuilding of Fitler Square,
as well as many other parks and playgrounds in the city,
should be given to Frederic R. Mann, Commissioner of
the Department of Recreation, Robert W. Crawford, Deputy
Commissioner, and to C. Gregory Bassett and Edward Maurer
of their staff. They have envisioned and accomplished
a nationally famous recreational building program. It's
also to their credit that they have employed the services
of the many outstanding local architects who have already
created a great many beautiful and functional parks
and playgrounds for the children and adults of the city."
Square redevelopment program was done at a cost of approximately
$23,000. Over $8,800, which was the largest dollar amount
of any of the contracts for rebuilding the park, was
spent for new top soil, fertilizing and plantings.
Architects and Buildings website)
by Emily T. Cooperman
Rice (Born: 3/17/1903, Died: 12/1/1985)
colleague, and longtime friend of Louis I. Kahn, Norman
Rice was born in Philadelphia. He graduated from Central
High School and studied architecture at the University
of Pennsylvania with Kahn, where they both earned B.Arch.
degrees in 1924. During his senior year, Rice served
as a teaching assistant in graphics. After graduation,
he worked as a draftsman and designer with a number
of Philadelphia firms, including Paul Cret, John Molitor,
Zantzinger, Borie & Medary and Tilden, Register
& Pepper, and also worked with Kahn on the Sesquicentennial
Exposition while both were in Molitor's office. In part
because of the frustrations of the experience of watching
city corruption in action, by 1928 Rice was by his own
account "disillusioned [and] inclined to quit architecture"
and left the United States "eager to see great European
buildings everyone imitated." After traveling widely
in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, Rice landed
in the Paris office of Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret,
working there with Jose Luis Sert, among others, between
1929 and 1930. Rice returned to Philadelphia in 1931,
revitalized by his exposure to Le Corbusier, and joined
the firm of Howe & Lescaze during the seminal PSFS
1932, Rice established an independent practice in Center
City Philadelphia that lasted for some fifty years.
He was very active in the profession, serving as a director
of the Philadelphia Chapter of the AIA in 1953 - 55
and 1962 - 63, its vice - president in 1958-59, and
president in 1960-61. He led the Pennsylvania Society
of Architects in 1964-66, and subsequently chaired its
commission on Architectural Design. In 1971, he was
named to the Pennsylvania State Art Commission, and
remained on it until 1980. Rice joined the national
AIA in 1945 and was made a fellow in 1964.
returned to Penn as a teacher in 1963, continuing there
until 1977; he co-taught a Master's studio with Kahn
and Robert Le Ricolais until Kahn's death in 1974. Rice
also taught at the Philadelphia Museum School of Art
in the 1950s.