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City of Philadelphia


Regulations are from the Philadelphia Code and the Home Rule Charter.


Art Commission

The Art Commission shall be composed of eight appointed members and the Commissioner of Public Property. Of the appointed members, one each shall be a painter, a sculptor, an architect, a landscape architect, a member of the Commission on Parks and Recreation, and an experienced business executive, and two shall be members of a faculty or governing body of a school of art or architecture. In all matters within the jurisdiction of the Commission pertaining to work under the special charge of any department of the City, the head of such department shall also for the time being act as a member but shall have no vote.


Sources: Act of June 25, 1919, P.L. 581, Article II, Section 11.

Purposes: The Art Commission, formerly the Art Jury, is continued substantially as heretofore, with the addition of a landscape architect. The Commissioner of Public Property is made a member because the Commission is connected with his Department. Since the Commission from time to time passes on projects within the realm of other departments, the department head concerned is made a member at the time his project is being considered.



The Department of Public Property shall have the power and its duty shall be to perform the following functions:

(a) Buildings and Other Real Estate.

(3) Whenever the City shall have been authorized by ordinance or otherwise to erect a new building or to remodel or alter an existing building, the Department shall when necessary employ a suitable architect, and also when necessary an engineer, to design the same. When the plans have been approved by the Mayor, the Managing Director and the Art Commission, the Department shall cause appropriate specifications to be prepared which shall be submitted to the Mayor and the Managing Director for approval. In the preparation of plans and specifications, the Department shall consult with the department, board or commission of the City or other governmental agency for whose use the building is being remodeled, altered or constructed. After a contract has been awarded, the Department shall supervise through its own engineers or otherwise, the remodeling, alteration or erection of the building under contract.


Art Commission

(1) The Art Commission shall:

(a) Approve any work of art to be acquired by the City, whether by purchase, gift or otherwise and its proposed location;

(b) Require to be submitted to it, whenever it deems it proper, a complete model or design of any work of art to be acquired by the City;

(c) Approve the design and proposed location of any building, bridge and its approaches, arch, gate, fence, or other structure or fixture to be paid for, either wholly or in part, from the City Treasury or for which the City or any other public authority is to furnish a site, but any such action taken by the Commission shall conform to the Physical Development Plan;

(d) Approve any structure or fixture to be erected by any person upon or to extend over any highway, stream, lake, square, park or other public place within the City;

(e) Examine every two years all City monuments and works of art and make a report to the Commissioner of Public Property on their condition with recommendations for their care and maintenance;

(f) Approve the removal, relocation or alteration of any existing work of art in the possession of the City.

(2) "Work of art" shall include all paintings, mural decorations, inscriptions, stained glass, statues, reliefs, or other sculptures, monuments, fountains, arches or other structures intended for ornament or commemoration.

(3) If the Art Commission fails to act upon any matter submitted to it within sixty days after such submission, its approval of the matter submitted shall be presumed.

Sources: Act of June 25, 1919, P.L. 581, Article II, Section 11.

Purposes:The functions of the Art Commission are essentially those of the Art Jury under the Charter of 1919. The functions of the Art Commission will affect at times City planning and for that reason its decisions must conform with the requirements of the Physical Development Plan of the City. The examination of the condition of City monuments and works of art is a new function and is included so that these important and expensive properties of the City shall not suffer from neglect.


Sale of Real Estate and Grants of Rights of Way or other Rights over or in Real Estate

A department, board or commission shall not sell or exchange any real estate belonging to the City or grant any license, easement, right of way, or other interest over or in such real estate without specific authority from the Council so to do. In deeds of land made by the City, appropriate restrictions may be imposed, including a restriction requiring that the design and location of structures to be altered or erected thereon be first approved by the Art Commission.


Sources: The Administrative Code of 1929, Act of April 9, 1929, P.L. 177, Section 514, as amended; Act of June 25, 1919, P.L. 581, Article II, Section 11 (e).

Purposes: The consent of Council is required before any interest in land may be transferred because of the value of such interests. The power of the City to impose restrictions in deeds of land made by it is intended as a means for facilitating planned City development, extending the powers of the Art Commission in appropriate circumstances, and for enabling the City to impose deed restrictions of any kind when otherwise appropriate or desirable.


Art Commission Approval

(1) No work of art shall be acquired by any department, board or commission, or erected or placed in or upon or allowed to extend over any building, street, stream, lake, park, or other public place belonging to or under the control of the City, or removed, relocated or altered in any way without approval first obtained from the Art Commission.

(2) No construction or erection requiring the approval of the Art Commission shall be contracted for by any officer, department, board or commission without approval first obtained from the Art Commission.

(3) Nothing requiring the approval of the Art Commission shall be changed in design or location without its approval.


Sources: Act of June 25, 1919, P.L. 581, Article II, Section 11 (d) and (e).

Purposes: Provisions of the 1919 Charter are continued. See Section 5-903.


Pertaining to Zoning

Every property in the City is assigned a zoning classification which determines what it may be used for and the physical characteristics of what may be constructed on it. Art commission approval is required in some categories. Most requirements for Art Commission approval in the Zoning Code are for commercial signs and are located in sections describing overlay districts for specific geographic areas which generally include stricter standards than would otherwise exist in the base zoning category. (Approval of signs grew out of the Charter responsibility for approval of “any structure or fixture extend over any highway...” )

Section 14-500 contains controls for these overlay areas including for example, the Center City Commercial Area Special Controls which include among other things, use and design controls for Chestnut and Walnut Streets between the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers, Broad Street between City Hall and Washington Avenue, and Market Street east of Independence Mall. In addition to placing restrictions on certain uses in properties fronting on these streets, it requires approval by the Planning Commission for any facade change and the Art Commission for any sign change. Similar controls exist for commercial corridors citywide.

Special controls also exist for the areas adjacent to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and Independence Mall. The original Art Jury was instrumental in the planning and development of the Parkway and Commission approval for improvements surrounding it date to its completion. Another of the Art Jury’s original concerns was the preservation of the City’s historic building fabric, decades before the formation of the Historical Commission. As a result, jurisdiction in areas such as Independence Mall may appear to duplicate that of the Historical Commission which did not come into existence until the mid 1950's.

The high density zoning categories have, since the early 1990's included a requirement that a fine art component, similar to the City’s Percent for Art programs be included in projects that exceed the base allowable density for the site. Approval of this part of the project rests with the Art Commission.

The Commercial Entertainment District also requires Art Commission approval of larger signs and a fine art component for all Casino construction, similar to the high density classifications above.


The Charter section dealing with structures or fixtures in the public right of way results in code requirements for Art Commission approval where structures are allowed to be built or permanent fixtures placed on or over sidewalks and streets. References may be found in the Streets Code (§11) and the Business Code (§ 9)

All newsstands and other street furniture placed on public sidewalks must be approved by the Commission.

Bridges, whether public or private must be approved by the Commission if they span a public street.

Bay windows, balconies stairwells and other projections from private structures into or over a public sidewalk must be approved.

Contact Us

The Philadelphia Art Commission
1515 Arch Street - 13th Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19102