What pop-up ice cream can teach us about pedestrian traffic patterns.

There are times when you need to break out of the box a little bit and this is, quite literally, one of those times. In my last post I alluded to some of the challenges with our site and helping lead visitors into the building. Arup has been onsite doing their traffic flow observation and we’re in the waiting period while they prepare their thoughts and recommendations. In the meantime, the time is right to experiment because the lessons we learn during this period can help inform these discussions.

Thinking about our site is top of mind over here and is a significant part of our strategic plan. Our aim is like many others in the industry; create a welcoming experience for visitors, add wayfinding for better clarity, and work to engage with our exterior not just mow the lawn, so to speak. These things will take a while, but we’re on it.

As a new visitor, if you’ve ever tried to enter the building, you might have found the task beautiful — lovely landscaping, birds singing, contemplative water features, stunning architecture — but you likely, also, found it a little daunting. One of the reasons may be because we’ve given you a number of ways to enter our site and various paths that lead to the front door. Some of these paths have better clarity than others and all are not (yet) well signed to help you on your way. We found a short term solution that could help us play with some of these challenges in the form of pop-up ice cream.

What happens when you put something very big, very mobile, and very fun onsite in places where you have the most clarity and, also, the most confusion?

The “Barnes Ensemble” ice cream sandwich.

As part of this we partnered with Jen and Andy Satinsky over at Weckerly’s, and they make local, seasonal and some-of-the-best-ice-cream-awesomeness that I’ve ever had. Jen and Andy came over for a tour of the Barnes collection and created an exclusive ice cream sandwich, the “Barnes Ensemble,” from the myriad of colors and textures present in our collection. It’s a lemon verbena geranium ice cream sandwich featuring two layers of lemon verbena ice cream, one swirled with local berries, the other swirled with house-made peach butter, sandwiched between crunchy granola and geranium shortbread.

Sounds pretty good right? This pilot is fundamentally about watching traffic patterns, but it’s disguised in an incredibly flavorful package. Our pop-up is open through September 5 and you’ll find it at two locations — the entrance off 20th street (a source of visitor confusion) and the central path from the parkway (where we have the most clarity).

Testing traffic patterns in a lemon verbena ice cream sandwich.

In both locations we are looking to see how the site changes when something like this is on it. How does pedestrian traffic move to it naturally? How do people engage differently with the site? How does the scale of this pop-up cart work given the scale of our grounds? All of these things are important questions and they are the right ones to be exploring right now.

If you are in Philadelphia, come on by. If you can get to Philadelphia, come on over. I promise you this ice cream doesn’t disappoint and your experience will help us moving forward.