Kaitlin Pomerantz’s On the Threshold (Salvaged Stoops, Philadelphia) is a monument to a beloved symbol of Philadelphia neighborhood culture: the stoop, or step(s), as it is known in South Philadelphia. As Pomerantz writes, the stoop or step is “a threshold between private and public space...[it] functions as a site of social interaction, of relaxation, and of participation.” Responding to recent immense change and transformation across city neighborhoods, Pomerantz sought to intercept historic building materials that would otherwise end up in the waste stream. Over the past six months, she collected marble, concrete, and brick from recently demolished buildings. The stoop materials have been reconstructed on-site using historical and traditional masonry techniques, and now line the east side of Washington Square Park, creating an opportunity for sitting, gathering, and reflecting on Philadelphia’s past and its future. Washington Square Park’s history as both a public gathering place and unmarked cemetery sparked the idea for the project, which stimulates conversation about architectural and individual memory.
Location: Site 05: Washington Square
Lab Hours: Wednesdays & Thursdays: 4pm – 7pm; Saturdays & Sundays: 12pm – 5pm
Park Hours: Open 24 Hours Daily
1pm – 4pm
Brick (from the first Women’s Medical College, East Falls); concrete (from the former Rocket Cat Cafe building, Frankford Ave, Kensington); and marble, blue stone, and brown stone from various demolished buildings throughout the city of Philadelphia (from the neighborhoods of West Philadelphia, Powelton, Tioga/Nicetown, Brewerytown/Sharswood, Kensington, South Philadelphia, Southwest Philadelphia). Supplemented with mortar, cinder block, and rebar.
On the Threshold Collaborators
Walter Mangual/Mangual Excavations, Bob Beaty, Kevin Brooks/Kevin Brooks Salvage, Pedro Palmer, Billy Dufala, Starr Herr-Cardillo, Debbie Anday, The National Park Service, Dennis Pagliotti, Roy Ingraffia, Robert Powers, Scott Ferris, and Rocco Matteo
Independence National Historical Park, Bricklayers and Allied Craftsworkers Local 1 PA-DE, International Masonry Institute, and Williamson College of the Trades
On the Threshold (Salvaged Stoops, Philadelphia) is a monument to Philadelphia’s distinct neighborhood cultures and varied historic and vernacular architectures, as told through the iconic architectural element of entryway steps, or the stoop. A feature originally associated with Dutch architecture (the Dutch stoep meaning "step"), stoops are prominent on Philadelphia buildings ranging from common row houses to more elite homes. A threshold between private and public space, the stoop functions as a space of social interaction, of relaxation, and of participation. As urban theorist Jane Jacobs described, the stoop is part of an "eyes on the street" community practice, a way for residents to participate, watch, and take care of social spaces.
This monument consists of a dozen stoops that have been salvaged from recently demolished buildings around the city of Philadelphia, and reconstructed using historical and traditional masonry techniques by Bricklayers and Allied Craftsworkers Local 1 PA-DE. These fragments-become-whole-again invite viewers to consider the vast changes taking place in the landscape of Philadelphia—the city's architectural and social histories, and what is being lost as well as preserved in a time of rampant development. They remind us of how built space shapes social space, and ask us to be active citizens in matters pertaining to the landscape of Philadelphia as it passes into this new threshold of economic growth.
As relics of bygone buildings, the stoops also invite viewers to contemplate the history of Washington Square Park as a site of lives lost and histories buried, as the park once functioned as a common burial ground—or potter’s field—for many years before becoming a public park. These unmarked pieces of material history recall the unmarked lives and stories buried below the soil.
The stoops line Washington Square Park’s easternmost passage, inviting viewers to sit, pass by, engage, and remember. The project will feature a “stoop stories” audio and photo collection, which will be featured in a public archive and with news media partners. Finally, the living vernacular architecture of stoops can be explored in the artist’s Instagram project account, @stoop_phenomena_.
About the Artist
Kaitlin Pomerantz is a visual artist and educator based in Philadelphia, PA. Her sculpture, intermedia installation, 2D works, and writing explore the relationship between humans and nature, landscape and land use, and themes of history, vacancy, loss, and renewal. Pomerantz participated in the academic arts residency program, Land Arts of the American West, based out of Texas Tech University, this past fall. Pomerantz is co-facilitator of recurring botanical arts project, WE THE WEEDS, which will attend the Cabin Time residency out of Los Angeles this spring. Pomerantz has most recently shown work at Little Berlin, Philadelphia; Texas Tech Museum, Lubbock, TX; and Fjord Gallery, Philadelphia. She holds a BA in Art History from University of Chicago, and an MFA in Interdisciplinary Visual Art from University of Pennsylvania. Pomerantz is Visiting Assistant Professor of Fine Arts at Haverford College.