Repurposing Industrial Sites through Temporary Use

Last year, ReadyMade broke the news about the dumpster pools of Brooklyn—a story that quickly grew wings and took off, gathering attention from corners of the mediasphere as varied as the New York Times, BoingBoing, ABC News and NPR. This year Macro-Sea, the company that conceived and built the pools, is back with a new project, a “psychological recycling center” called Glassphemy! (Read the New York Times article about Glassphemy!, here.) And ReadyMade is teaming up with Macro-Sea to sponsor a contest to get our readers involved in the recycling and design process, too.

Not so long ago, in Philadelphia, a meeting of architects and urban planners was convened by the Community Design Collaborative to think of ‘interim uses’ for empty lots around the city. One of the lots in question was always strewn with piles of broken glass. The architects and urban planners furrowed their brows in thought: would it be possible to create a project that would lure people away from their littering ways, converting the lot for more constructive uses?

A plan is powerful. Lines on a page are often the first step towards realizing the transformation of a space, or a neighborhood. The Community Design Collaborative is driven by this idea.

“Design is not a luxury,” explains Executive Director Beth Miller. The organization was founded in 1991 by a group of architects and planners who wanted to improve Philadelphia neighborhoods. For 20 years, the Collaborative has been coordinating pro-bono preliminary design services for community groups, helping them realize their ambitions while offering pragmatic council.…

Transforming Urban Schoolyards

A design charrette generated great ideas for greening schoolyards as designers, teachers, students, parents, and advocates for education, sustainability, and wellness collaborated to kick off Infill Philadelphia: Soak It Up.

Four teams developed conceptual designs for Lea Elementary School in West Philadelphia and Kelly Elementary School in Germantown. Both the visionary and the quotidian were considered in the designs: How do we get kids to think globally about the environment? How can green schoolyards benefit the whole neighborhood? Isn’t there a better place to put the trash?

The charrette teams pinned up their work and presented at a public reveal immediately following the charrette on May 10, 2012.  Their design concepts will be assembled into print and digital documents for use by Lea, Kelly, and other green schoolyard advocates. In the meantime, here’s a sampling of sketches and scenes from the design charrette:

Lea Elementary School
Team 1: The Schoolyard as the New Front Door

At many Philly public elementary schools, the formal front entrance isn’t used much anymore. Instead, students gather and enter the school from the playground at the start of the day. Lea is no exception. Parents, students, and teachers mingle while students line up outside in the a.m., and the playground has become an important part of the social life of Lea beyond recess. This design team redesigned the playground with a wide entrance, more gathering spaces, and flags reflecting an international student body.

Lea Elementary School
Team 2: Trash Becomes a Teachable moment

Those big dumpsters stuck in every urban schoolyard seem diabolically placed to obstruct flow, play, and views. Dumpsters need to be accessible for pick-up, but almost every team found a less obtrusive option for placing them. This design team moved the dumpster from the central playground to a smaller play area, pairing it with a new composting and recycling center to make trash part of an environmental education curriculum.

Kelly Elementary School
Team 1: Wellness Trail

Both Kelly teams responded to the community’s goal to “create a place within the neighborhood where wellness would be celebrated.” Both teams had to reconcile the strong geometries of the 70s-era school building (dubbed “the mother ship”) with the gentler lines of a natural landscape. Circulation became the organizing factor in both designs. The first team created a walking trail around the periphery of the school site that “gets people moving.” The trail links a series of natural habitat and garden areas.

Kelly Elementary School
Team 2: Wellness Loop

“Good ideas are not necessarily original ideas,” said team member Jeff Goldstein, a principal of DIGSAU, noting the similarity between the proposals from the Kelly teams. This team created a loop within the playground that “invites students and neighborhoods to move through a diverse natural landscape.” Team member Vicki Mehl of Hansberry Children’s Garden Center, stressed the importance of “exposing kids to their connection with nature” and providing a landscape that tangibly answers the question: “where does my food come from?”

Many thanks to the remarkable people who collaborated at the charrette, came out to learn more at the public reveal, and offered their special knowledge to inform and lead this public forum on transforming urban schoolyards. Learn more about who participated. Get the neighborhood and volunteer perspective on the design charrette in, flying kite, and OLIN.

Transforming Urban Schoolyards was organized by the Community Design Collaborative, AIA Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Water Department, and the US Environmental Protection Agency Region 3.

Special thanks to event sponsors Buell Kratzer Powell and W. S. Cumby.


Infill Philadelphia: Soak it Up

How can the innovative design of green stormwater infrastructure enhance neighborhoods and the city as a whole? The Philadelphia Water Department, Community Design Collaborative, and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are partnering to explore that question through will Infill Philadelphia: Soak It Up.

This design initiative will feature charrettes, workshops, and exhibition, and a competition to support the adoption, adaptation and implementation of green stormwater infrastructure in the Philadelphia region.

These programs and events will promote the principles and methods outlined in Green City, Clean Waters, Philadelphia’s innovative 25-year plan to protect and enhance the city’s waterways by managing stormwater primarily through green stormwater infrastructure. Infill Philadelphia: Soak It Up will promote design as a key part of the equation for a more sustainable Philadelphia.

The design initiative will:

  • Provide design, construction and development professionals in the Philadelphia region with meaningful, hands-on experiences working with green stormwater infrastructure methodologies that can be applied to their everyday practices.
  • Demonstrate the benefits (economic, environmental, market, etc.) of green stormwater infrastructure to local public officials, developers, design professionals and community organizations.
  • Encourage the greater use of sustainable site design, green stormwater infrastructure, and Low Impact Development.
  • Recognize innovation and creativity in creating high impact design using green stormwater infrastructure and Low Impact Development.
  • Accelerate the process and implementation for three real-life sites.

Philadelphia is a national innovator in stormwater management planning and policy. With Green City, Clean Waters and other plans and policies like Philadelphia 2035, Greenworks Philadelphia, and Green 2015 that have complementary goals, the City is well-positioned to explore the design and aesthetic possibilities of green stormwater infrastructure, improve community well being, change the way we think about infrastructure, and provide national models for American cities.…

Call For Entries

The deadline for submission was August 1, 2012. Entry is now closed. We look forward to seeing you at the exhbition at the Center for Architecture this fall!

Got a great green project that can soak up stormwater and serve as a model for creating engaging, healthy, and visually-appealing urban places? Submit it for the upcoming Infill Philadelphia: Soak It Up! Precedent Exhibition.

Co-sponsored by the Community Design Collaborative, Philadelphia Water Department, and US Environmental Protection Agency, this national juried exhibition will show how designing with green tools can enhance cities, engage people, and spur new public-private partnerships.

The exhibition will provide inspiring precedents for Philadelphia, leading up to a national competition to be announced in fall 2012. Projects will be on display from September 17 through October 19, 2012 at AIA Philadelphia’s Center for Architecture.…