At the corner of the field, a flower-framed blackboard stood with the words “High Rise Field Memorial” written across it in white chalk on the afternoon of Dec. 7. The other side of the board had "In Loving Memory … " centered at the top, leaving room for students or other passerby to share their thoughts beneath it.
On Nov. 2, Penn announced plans to build New College House West — a residential building that will cost the University a record-breaking $163 million and will be built where the high rise field is currently located. Responding to the news, students have questioned the purpose of a new dorm on campus and have expressed frustration over the loss of the open space.
While some of the shared memories were lighthearted — “I found $5,” a person wrote, adding an image of a smiling face — others were more sentimental.
“I actually had the chance to share my feelings here with a friend," someone wrote.
“I’m going to remember this park forever,” read another statement.
This memorial was the vision of three Penn students — Engineering sophomore Connor McSwain, College junior Sarah Thomas, and Engineering freshman Effie Li — who teamed up for a class project to produce a piece of public art relevant to the Penn community.
“This issue is a very hot topic right now just because the plans were recently released for the school to build a new dorm,” Thomas said. “This is a space that is communal.”
“We’re just sharing our memories on the field because we’re all sad that we won’t have the whole field to play on,” McSwain said.
As a member of the frisbee team at Penn, this issue is particularly relevant for McSwain. While the team reserves practice space at Penn Park three times a week from 9:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m., team members often practice or play pick-up games on high rise field. McSwain added that Penn Park is not conveniently located and that varsity sports teams get priority in reserving daytime practice slots.
“I mean Amy Gutmann said then net green space will stay the same or increase, but the whole field won’t be here and we won’t be able to play the fields we were able to play,” McSwain added.
As a freshman, Li said the project spoke to her because she will likely live in one of the high rise buildings next year and will probably use the field. She described the fact that the dormitory's construction will begin in spring 2018 and that students will not be able to move in until after her graduation in 2021 as "kinda sad."
“Students should be able to express their opinions on the project the school is building,” Li added. “I played grass volleyball here once and I think it’s a really nice space. It’s really beautiful.”
Thomas said the only requirement that School of Design senior lecturer David Comberg had for each project was that it needed to be "pointed."
“He didn’t want it to be too nice or surface level,” Thomas said of Comberg. “He wanted everyone’s topic to have a little dig in it about what’s going on at Penn because otherwise what’s the point of it?”
Comberg confirmed this in an email statement.
"There tends to be a passivity on the campus and this project asks students to challenge that condition," he explained. "High Rise Field Memorial uses a humorous approach to make a critical point."
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