The Medical Campus is looking sharp. Adding to that sharpness is a set of new precast concrete planters with attached cantilevered benches. I spoke to designer Daniel Seiders at Joy Kuebler Landscape Architect who told me that the firm was tasked with coming up with the designs five years ago, by HOK Architects. The goal was to come up with functional components that would also be seen as beautiful works. “There are two groupings of 5, one of 4, and one of 3,” said Seiders. “There are only 6 cast shapes designed to be rearranged into the 4 different configurations. We wanted the bench-planters to read like a large sculptural mass. Each weighs several tons, and come in several smaller pieces so that they can be handled.”
The bench-planters are all site specific designs, as are the rest of the design and functional amenities that are being incorporated into the project. “We were responsible with coming up with the site work, from the face of the building to the curb, as well as the passageway that goes through the building,” Seiders continued. “It’s almost the entire public right of way. We needed to think about the streetscapes, the multimodal transit and public space. There were a lot of players along the way, including UB, The NFTA, and The City. We knew how we wanted the spaces to function socially, with the users who were passing through, in respects to the taller medical building and smaller scale of Allentown. The planters take a bow to Allentown, while being higher on the pedestrian side (the building side). The space folds in and out. We wanted to create conversation spaces – places where people could sit down and deal with daily life (meet friends, access phones and WiFi).”
Seiders told me that the subway entrance (the tunnel) would feature parking for 100 bikes called a Bicycle Bay. There’s a big focus on multimodal transit. “This is the busiest subway station in the system,” he pointed out. “There’s a lot of activity. We wanted to make sure that people could arrive on bike, and hop on a Metro Rail.
“After five years of anticipating this, it’s such a relief. We’ve gotten a lot of great feedback so far. The plants are going in tomorrow, then the benches will be added. They will feature ipe wood, and the spaces in-between will be the same 77 degree angles (a parallelogram) that is consistent with the city’s street grid in the area. It’s all about the micro details – things that nobody else thinks about.”