It’s that time of year again when we get to bring you bite-sized portions of your favorite design stories! Closing out 2019 we have a story about haunted architecture, a case of mistaken identity that made its way into the built environment, a trip to the Hollywood sign, and a cartoon that wreaked ecological havoc on an entire country.
Jack Purcell Park by Emmett FitzGerald
There’s a small park in the Centretown neighborhood of Ottawa, Canada called Jack Purcell Park. The park was named for a local man (Jack Purcell), who was known around town for generously and skillfully repairing the hockey sticks of children. Purcell was even nicknamed the “stick doctor.”
In 2014, the city wanted to give the park a makeover, and they hired an architectural firm to design various new elements, including some lighting fixtures. And the architects designed these strange lights that look a little like lollipops, or quidditch goals, or badminton rackets.
Why not hockey stick lights to honor the stick doctor you ask? We don’t know exactly what happened, but a simple Google search of the name “Jack Purcell” is pretty revealing. It turns out there is another, much more famous, Canadian named Jack Purcell—Jack Purcell the Canadian badminton champion of 1929! By some accounts, Purcell was the greatest badminton player in the world. To this day he has a popular Converse shoe named after him. He also has a lengthy Wikipedia page, and so the theory is that the architects googled the name and assumed (not unreasonably) that the park was named for this Canadian sporting legend.
It looks as though the city spent thousands of dollars on a tribute to the wrong Jack Purcell. There has been some talk of replacing the lights, but the park stands in strange tribute to Canada’s two great Jack Purcells, the badminton champ and the stick doctor.
Special thanks to listener Nancy Norton for tipping us off to that story!