Skip to Content
Bohlin Cywinski Jackson

Wilkes-Barre Public Square

Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania

A performance venue and other site improvements breathe new life into a regional community destination for cultural events and gatherings.

A delicate approach to integrating old and new, the canopy is suspended from the backdrop, avoiding the need for foundations and building on top of the vault, which is an active mechanical room for the Square as well as storage space. © Nick Snyder
The bandshell’s hemlock-clad roof and overlapping charred accoya screens establish an elegant backdrop for varied activities and performances at the Square. © Nick Snyder
© Nick Snyder
The screens conceal integrated lighting with color that can be adjusted to visually promote holidays and other community events, creating a highly visible presence on the Square. © Nick Snyder
"The Public Square pavilion's skilled and simple, yet powerful design is a masterclass in economy and leveraging a project's existing context. The images convey the positive impact a small community project can make, and this deserves to be celebrated. The clean, sophisticated detailing is exceptional for a project of this type."
2023 AIA NEPA Awards Jury

Project Information


500 square feet (bandshell)


Spring 2023


AIA NEPA Honor Award, Small Projects


Revitalizing Wilkes-Barre's Public Square

Wilkes-Barre Public Square has seen several cycles of revitalization in its history. Our practice was first engaged to redevelop parts of downtown following catastrophic flooding from Hurricane Agnes, in 1972, that left much of the city underwater. After 40 years of use, further development, and ongoing master planning, we were again contracted to design the next iteration of Public Square.

In recent years, much of Wilkes-Barre’s downtown has undergone a marked transition from a business center to a residential one, with former office and bank buildings converted to housing. Public Square, a two-acre green space in the center of the city, plays a vital role for the growing number of residents who seek outdoor communal space. The initial phase for the Square’s revitalization included new path layouts, restored benches, and new café furniture that improved foot traffic around summer farmer’s market stalls and other year-round events, while also activating the Square on non-event days.

The second phase of work focused on bringing renewed energy and pride of place to the performing arts space on the southwest corner of the Square. During temperate seasons when many events are held, a trailer had historically been rolled into the space and onto its original granite pavers. Over time, these pavers—and the underground service vault beneath—had suffered considerable damage and were in urgent need of repair. In addition to the necessary material improvements, the project team wanted to bring renewed pride of place to downtown by providing a flexible performance venue that could accommodate a range of public and private events, encouraging increased foot traffic and creating a billboard for the city.

Completed in Spring 2023, the permanent performance venue now occupies the corner site and functions as it was originally intended. Made of steel and wood, the 500 square-foot bandshell is inspired by the geometry of the existing truss backdrop and suspends from the structure. Integrated lighting provides a vibrant addition to the park at night, while the refurbished backdrop can support and display content in a high visibility location.

The Diamond City Partnership—a nonprofit alliance for downtown revitalization—donated previously raised private funds to cover the cost of design and engineering services, while the City financed construction, demonstrating a highly successful partnership that is restoring a sense of place to downtown Wilkes-Barre.