A series of previously unfinalized works about social and institutional boundaries and thresholds


Reading Krzysztof Wodiczko's City Hall Tower Illumination (1987)

A conceptual project about civic thresholds and visualizing the health and well-being of Philadelphia

Fields of Knowledge
  • Aesthetics / Media
  • Curatorial practice
  • Design
  • Health / Sustainability
  • Memory
  • Social Justice

Organizing Institutions


Contributing Institutions

University of Pennsylvania


Aaron Levy, Orkan Telhan


Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, and The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts

Process initiated


Opens to public



Slought Storefront
4017 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19104

And sites across Philadelphia

Slought and the Emergent Design Practices Lab at PennDesign are pleased to announce a reading of "City Hall Tower Illumination," 1987, a conceptual project by Krzysztof Wodiczko about civic thresholds that seeks to visualize the health and well-being of Philadelphia, on display February 9 to April 27, 2017.

Wodiczko's "City Hall Tower Illumination" was originally published by the Fairmount Park Art Association of Philadelphia in Light Up Philadelphia: Presentations and Discussion (1988). In our reading of his proposal, Wodiczko projects signals on the facade of City Hall to enable residents to communicate with their fellow inhabitants and support their health and well-being. In so doing, he synchronizes the city's diverse rhythms and communities, and enables public consciousness and engagement, so as to reimagine the socio-political fabric of the city of Philadelphia.

This project seeks to extend "City Hall Tower Illumination" beyond City Hall itself and across different locations in Philadelphia that embody civic imagination. Working from Wodiczko's unfinalized proposal, past recordings of the artist in conversation at Slought, and contemporary developments in Philadelphia, our intention is to raise critical questions about social responsibility and encourage publics to think of art and architecture as thresholds for empathy and compassion. What are the common grounds for belonging to the city of Philadelphia? What sense of care and responsibility do we have towards one another? How can visual culture enable a sense of togetherness and bring together divided urban communities?

We seek a critical engagement with these questions, beginning with discursive activities featuring faculty and students from the University of Pennsylvania. These conversations will be inspired by Wodiczko's original proposal.

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As originally conceived, City Hall Tower Illumination is a tool for visualizing and enabling communication about the health and well-being of Philadelphia residents. Inspired by Wodiczko's approach, we seek to reflect on what a data-driven narrative that addresses the complex inequalities and divisions that shapes the city's social reality would look like today.

What should this narrative include? Video clips, numerical visualizations, statistics, or images?

We aim to produce a document that captures the current urgencies of people, communities, and neighborhoods of Philadelphia. Contact us with your suggestions.

This project has been organized in conjunction with "Second Life," a series of previously unfinalized works about social and institutional boundaries as thresholds.

"The new task for City Hall will be to transform the sense of the entire public institution and its architectural body into something sensitive, responding, and responsible, to acknowledge the daily rhythm or daily life of the city. Our task is to reattach the public domain's hold on contemporary life and to challenge its alienating, elusive effect.

My proposal attempts to expand the symbolic function of City Hall, to its moral authority adding pulses synchronizing the city's rhythms of employment, housing for low-income inhabitants, education for everyone—the most critical issues in urban life and politics. The highest level of public consciousness and alertness about these issues is crucial for the survival of the city as a whole and for its unity and solidarity."

-- Krzysztof Wodiczko, 1987