The Button (sculpture), Philadelphia

The Button (sculpture), Philadelphia

The Button, also known as the Split Button, is a contemporary art sculpture situated at the heart of the University of Pennsylvania campus. It was created by Claes Oldenburg, a Swedish artist renowned for crafting oversized sculptures inspired by ordinary objects.

When The Button was installed in front of the Van Pelt Library on June 18, 1981, it sparked significant controversy. Some students regarded the structure as intrusive and believed it did not enhance the appearance of College Green. Although the controversy surrounding the artwork has diminished over the years since 1981, it has nonetheless become a prominent landmark and focal point of the campus.

A popular legend, primarily circulated by University of Pennsylvania students, attributes the creation of The Button to the university's founder, Benjamin Franklin. According to the tale, a monument of Franklin seated nearby depicts a moment when the corpulent figure sat down, causing his vest button to pop off and roll across Locust Walk on the university grounds. Eventually, the button came to a halt and split into two pieces, giving rise to the sculpture we see today.

Oldenburg, however, offers an alternative interpretation. He once explained that "The Split represents the Schuylkill River, dividing the button into four sections, symbolizing William Penn's original Philadelphia squares."

The name of The Button has even lent itself to a satirical blog at Penn, known as Under the Button.

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The Button (sculpture) on Map

Sight Name: The Button (sculpture)
Sight Location: Philadelphia, USA (See walking tours in Philadelphia)
Sight Type: Attraction/Landmark
Guide(s) Containing This Sight:

Walking Tours in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Create Your Own Walk in Philadelphia

Create Your Own Walk in Philadelphia

Creating your own self-guided walk in Philadelphia is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Fairmount Park Historical Houses Walking Tour

Fairmount Park Historical Houses Walking Tour

Fairmount Park, Philadelphia's oldest park, established since 1867, is also the city's largest municipal park, sprawling over 2,000 acres adjacent to the banks of the Schuylkill River. The park grew out of the Lemon Hill estate of Henry Pratt, whose land was originally owned by Robert Morris, signer of the Declaration of Independence.

In 1972, the park was placed on the National...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.7 Km or 2.9 Miles
Philadelphia Old City Walking Tour

Philadelphia Old City Walking Tour

King Charles II of England owed a lot of money to Admiral Sir William Penn. He paid in 1681 by signing over lands in America to the Admiral's son, William Penn. Young William, a Quaker and a thorn in the side of the King, became landlord of present-day Pennsylvania and Delaware. William sailed up Delaware, laid out a grid, and founded Philadelphia.

The streets of the grid run east and west...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.4 Km or 1.5 Miles
University of Pennsylvania Walking Tour

University of Pennsylvania Walking Tour

As America's first university, The University of Pennsylvania (aka Penn or Upenn, for short) has a history stretching back to the mid-18th century, closely bound with the city's colonial past and the birth of the United States. Initially, this Ivy League institution emerged as the College of Philadelphia, one of the nine colonial colleges chartered before the US Declaration of...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.2 Km or 1.4 Miles
Franklin Parkway Walking Tour

Franklin Parkway Walking Tour

Benjamin Franklin Parkway is a scenic boulevard running through the cultural heart of Philadelphia. Named for America's Founding Father, Benjamin Franklin, this mile-long tree-lined parkway is lined with several notable sights and world-class museums.

At its heart lies Logan Circle, a charming green space centered around a picturesque fountain. This spot can provide a refreshing break on...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.5 Km or 0.9 Miles
Rocky Movie Sites Walking Tour

Rocky Movie Sites Walking Tour

There's hardly any other character, fictional or real, as iconically Philadelphian as Rocky. Indeed, this American sports drama franchise, centered on the boxing career of Rocky Balboa, released in 1976, has become synonymous with and arguably done more for the city of Philadelphia than anyone else since Ben Franklin.

The cultural phenomenon was created by Sylvester Stallone, who wrote,...  view more

Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 6.3 Km or 3.9 Miles
Benjamin Franklin's Philadelphia

Benjamin Franklin's Philadelphia

One of the most fascinating personalities in Revolutionary America, Benjamin Franklin, while still a teenager, left his Puritan family in Boston for Philadelphia to start a new life. Indeed, his life turned out to be quite remarkable. Franklin was a writer, a printer, a philosopher, a postmaster, a scientist, an inventor, a statesman, and a diplomat – the absolute purist version of the American...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.1 Km or 1.3 Miles

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