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Skating at Olbrich

Wednesday, December 17, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 23.0° F  Partly Cloudy
The Daily
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Citizen Dave: John Wall Family Pavilion at Tenney Park an investment in the public realm
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The pavilion feels more like a big living room than a utilitarian park shelter.
The pavilion feels more like a big living room than a utilitarian park shelter.
Credit:Plunkett Raysich Architects

There's a concept in urban design called "third places." The idea is that you have your home and you have your workplace, but a lot of what makes cities fun and vibrant to live in are the third places: bars, restaurants, coffee shops, and spaces like State Street or other well-designed public areas.

Parks can sometimes work as great third spaces -- Orton Park, for example or Hillington Green in my neighborhood -- or they can sometimes flop. When they don't work, it's usually because they're too big or lacking in that hard to define charisma that pulls people in.

Making those third places comfortable and interesting to be in is what makes them work.

So the design of the new John Wall Family Pavilion at Tenney Park by Plunkett Raysich Architects pays attention to some of the details that were lost in the old 1970s-era shelter, and makes it a new third place to visit in Madison.

It's a warm and inviting space, much less dark than the old shelter. It has big windows that look out on the lagoon, and a stone fireplace raised off the floor so small children won't get too close to it. Big historic photos cover two of the walls. The pavilion feels more like a big living room than a utilitarian park shelter.

The building opened officially last Saturday, and it is already filling up for wedding bookings next summer. The new census shows that marriage is a less popular institution than ever, but those who are still taking the plunge seem to want to take it in an interesting and beautiful space like the Tenney pavilion. Maybe it'll improve their chances.

The pavilion was built with 50% taxpayer money and 50% privately raised funds. To help fund the effort over 300 people, and companies bought tiles that line the walks outside of the building.

Special recognition goes to neighborhood resident and all-around good citizen Mary Lang Sollinger, who led the fundraising effort. Also deserving recognition is Ald. Bridget Maniaci, who kept after me to keep it funded from the city side when I was mayor and the private fundraising hit a snag with the recession.

An ice skating party will be held at Tenney Park on Monday, January 16, with music and games. Even better is that this winter, for the first time in a long time, you can learn to skate at the Tenney pavilion.

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