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07.30.2009
Four Vie for Philly Pier
Finalists named to remake Delaware River waterfront
Pier 11 in Philadelphia sits between Pier 9 and the Benjamin Franklin Bridge.
Courtesy Google Earth

Visions for a new Philadelphia waterfront took another step forward last month when the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation (DRWC) presented design finalists for the redevelopment of Pier 11, a run-down site along the Delaware River and the first phase of Philadelphia’s broader riverfront redesign plan. Selected from 26 proposals, the four finalists are James Corner Field Operations, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, and W Architecture and Landscape Architecture, all of New York, and Philadelphia-based Andropogon Associates.

At a June 17 public presentation of the finalists’ designs, the proposals varied widely—some showing conceptual ideas and others laying out detailed, site-specific plans—but all offered ideas for a redefined edge. One of the most comprehensive proposals, developed by Andropogon Associates, transforms the existing pier into an ecologically engaging place powered by tidal, wind, and solar energy, with adaptive reuse of the pier’s historic structures. “It’s an opportunity to actually develop a paradigm shift in the way the city relates to the river, and how the river relates to the city,” Andropogon principal José Almiñana told AN.

The proposal from Andropogon, the only team to offer a detailed rendering for the project in its presentation.
Courtesy Andropogon Associates

The other finalists took a more conceptual aim at the project. Corner, principal at James Corner Field Operations, compared Pier 11 to his firm’s work on New York’s High Line. Both sites, he said, are underutilized areas that can be transformed into an economic opportunity for the city while providing a new public space for its inhabitants.

Van Valkenburgh’s presentation offered previous park projects, including designs for New York City’s Union Square and Brooklyn Bridge Park, highlighting the latter’s sustainable elements. Lastly, W Architecture and Landscape Architecture proposed ideas based on the firm’s completed urban waterfront projects, emphasizing the interconnectivity of civic and natural environments.

Built as a timber structure in 1916, Pier 11 was used by national and international steamers carrying fruit, salt, and cargo, but gradually succumbed to decay. The 80-foot-by-540-foot strip at the foot of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge will “now bring a new look at public design along the waterfront, as well as a new way to reuse old industrial piers within the context of first-class public realm design,” said Joseph Forkin, vice president for operations and development at the DRWC. Eventual plans for the waterfront also include the reuse of Pier 9 and a former Water Department building.

The DRWC’s planning committee, chaired by Marilyn Jordan Taylor, is expected to make its recommendation for the winning design team by July 31, and Forkin said he hoped an announcement would be made soon thereafter.

A version of this article appeared in AN_07.29.2009.

Danielle Rago