Philadelphia officially recognizes cyclists as a constituency deserving special protection. This week, Mayor Jim Kenney announced the creation of a "Complete Streets Commissioner," a new position in city government to oversee the creation of more bike-friendly infrastructure. But the story gets complicated from there. Historically, Kenney is not the most ardent supporter of "complete streets," a term coined by the National Complete Streets Coalition to describe roads harmoniously designed for cyclists, pedestrians, public transportation users, and cars. In 2009, as a City Council member, Kenney introduced legislation to up fines for headphone-wearing bike riders. His co-legislators are not too enthused about bikes, either: The same City Council gave itself veto power over proposed bike lanes in 2012. The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia lead the creation of the commissioner position. According to Philadelphia Magazine, the Bicycle Coalition organized a mayoral forum for Democratic candidates, where each would-be mayor claimed to support "Vision Zero" objectives. The group issued a platform last year during election season, outlining reforms needed to make safer streets. Sarah Clark Stuart, executive director of the Bicycle Coalition, maintains that "creating a commissioner who is thinking about and looking at all transportation modes, and how to make them safer and work better for everyone, that is new. And what that signals is that there is a dedicated, high-ranking official who is assigned the responsibilities to marshall citywide resources and set policy toward the goal of making Philadelphia's streets safer for everyone." Why isn't Philadelphia's Office of Transportation & Utilities assuming these responsibilities? In a shift towards a "strong-managing-director form of government," Kenney is simultaneously creating the Complete Streets Commissioner position while closing the Office of Transportation & Utilities. Clarena Tolson, the Deputy Managing Director of Transportation & Infrastructure, will continue to oversee street maintenance, water, some of the complete streets program, as well as synchronize operations of the Philadelphia Energy Authority and SEPTA. There's no word yet on the application process. Urbanists, keep your ears peeled.
Posts tagged with "Philadelphia":
In West Philadelphia, a team of developers, planners, and architects are asking one of urbanists' favorite questions: How can a mega-development be made to feel like a neighborhood, and not a bland corporate campus plopped in the middle of the city? Lead developers Wexford Science + Technology and the University City Science Center are spearheading the from-scratch transformation of a former superblock into a sort of mini city within a city. The developers' suggested new name for University City, uCitySquare, is bland, The Philadelphia Inquirer's Inga Saffron contends, though the master plans may not be. Ayers Saint Gross took the lead on the plan, with Jeanne Gang of Studio Gang as a contributor. It appears that the project is riding the same trends that developers used to remake Philly's 12th and Market area into a successful mixed-use district. The uCitySquare master plan would break the 14-acre site into four pieces by restoring 37th and Cuthbert streets, demapped in the urban renewal that transformed the once-dense neighborhood of row houses into growth space for the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel. It suggests moving 37th Street east of its original location, to make traffic and pedestrian flow smoother along the north-south access between Penn and the residential neighborhood of Powelton Village. Stubby Cuthbert Street would be extended east-west, linking Presbyterian Hospital to the Drexel campus. So far, the uses of two of the four parcels have been set. Drexel commissioned Rogers Partners to build an elementary and a middle school. Project start dates are contingent on budget negotiations with the city's school district. The first buildings are sprouting. ZGF Architects' 3675 Market will break ground this spring. The bulky glass cube's main tenant is the Cambridge Innovation Center. The Baltimore-based firm is doing a second building at 37th and Warren with solar panels embedded into the facade. Erdy McHenry will design a mid-rise apartment building with ground-floor retail on Lancaster Avenue that breaks ground this summer. The developers are committed to making common spaces not boring. The University City Science Center says that there will be a supermarket, wide sidewalks, and underground parking to minimize street space devoted to cars. The master plan calls for Philadelphia-based OLIN to design a public park at the center of the site. So far, these are good promises that are tempered by the science center's present foray into urbanism: folding chairs and brick pavers along a pedestrian-only stretch of 37th Street that will connect to uCitySquare is intensely uninviting.
Libraries are temples for books, though Snøhetta's plan for a new library at Temple University in Philadelphia argues that you can have one without the other. The design of the Temple University Library is influenced by the academies of ancient Greece, which privileged social spaces for discourse over the storage and management of written materials. It almost seems as if the Oslo- and New York–based firm is pioneering a new typology within its own practice. In December 2015, Snøhetta unveiled its "library without books," also based on the Greek stoas and agoras, for Toronto's Ryerson University. Including Temple, Snøhetta has designed eleven libraries, both standalone and as part of larger programs. Although Ryerson's library was built first, Snøhetta has been in talks with Temple about a new library since 2013. The library's wooden arches mark entryways that slice into the rough stone facade. Steel mullions support pleated frameless glass windows, increasing transparency from the outside at the main entrances. Arches continue into the sweeping main lobby, where a three-story, domed atrium features an oculus that serves as a wayfinder by opening up the library's upper-floor functions visually to students in the main lobby. A cafe and a 24/7 study space on the ground floor round out the interior program. Classroom space extends outside, with stepped seating on the green roof and ground-floor plazas to encourage congregation. To manage Temple's two million-plus books, periodicals, DVDs, and other materials, the new library uses an automated storage and retrieval system (ASRS) that allows the library to devote more square footage to "learning spaces" and less space to the stacks. The video below shows an ASRS in action at Santa Clara University. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ez9Z7rHqk1Y The idea (ideal, to some) of libraries as musty repositories of hardcopy information is patently outdated. Librarians are quick to embrace their role not only as collection managers but as communication and content facilitators, whatever the medium. The impulse behind the design, however, recalls the failed 2012 Foster + Partners redesign the New York Public Library's main branch on Fifth Avenue at 42nd Street. Plans called for removing seven floors of stacks under the Rose Main Reading Room to create a 300-person workspace. New York culture leaders widely criticized the plan for moving most of the library's books off-site, or underground. (Dutch firm Mecanoo was awarded the commission in September 2015.) Though the top floor at the Temple Library is programmed for a sunny reading room with stacks, books are explicitly not the design's focus. It's worth noting that around 1,800 years passed between the founding of Platonic Academy and the invention of the printing press. The ancient Greek academies privileged social space over materials management because there were far, far fewer books; information transmission today takes place primarily though image and text. Perhaps the invocation of the scholarly ancient Greeks softens the capitulation to a depressing reality: the 2010 Collegiate Learning Assessment found that one-third of college students read less than 40 pages per week for classes. The library is one part of a $300 million campus expansion plan that includes a to-be-built quadrangle, the public space at the heart of the campus' new social and academic core. Construction of the library should be complete by 2018.
Here’s Philadelphia’s ambitious plan to build a neighborhood over a railyard on the Schuylkill River
Cap and trade agreements are a standard tool in the climate change fight. Philadelphia, in collaboration with an urban design team led by SOM, is getting in on the game. Recently revised plans for the 30th Street Station and surrounding neighborhoods call for capping 70 acres of Amtrak and SEPTA-owned land, trading the underutilized space for a mixed-use neighborhood, parkland, and three pedestrian bridges across the Schuylkill River, linking University City with Logan Square and Center City. SOM partnered with Parsons Brinckerhoff, OLIN, and HR&A Advisors on the $5.25 million study. Through citizen input, the design team developed three iterations of the plan, all of which were presented and debated at a December 16th meeting, PlanPhilly reported. The study reviews land use over 175 acres, 88 of which are owned by Amtrak and SEPTA. The main project partners are Amtrak, Brandywine Realty Trust, Drexel University, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), and SEPTA, along with twelve other stakeholders. Once adopted, the plan will guide the area's development through 2040. In addition to the capping and bridges, all three plans propose doubling the size of Drexel Park, boardwalks, a river overlook, and a bus terminal. There will be two more public meetings on the plan in spring and summer 2016.
Plans are finally underway to remake Philadelphia's 40th Street Trolley Portal. In conjunction with the city, nonprofit University City District (UDC) will transform the boring, character-free concrete SEPTA trolley terminal, adjacent to the University of Pennsylvania, into a social space for one of Philly's most vibrant areas. The terminal serves four busy trolley lines, but provides little in the way of comfort or amusement for passengers. Landscaping, by Philadelphia's own Andropogon Associates, will lure pollinators with native plants. The beds will be surrounded by seat-walls, an ingredient in William H. Whyte's famous formula for the social life of small urban spaces. UDC has a positive track record around refurbishing heavily used public space. A 2013 streetscape intervention at Baltimore Crossing created bump-outs at three corners to make the busy intersection safer for pedestrians. Curbed reported that a pedestrian plaza will include tables and chairs shaded by a grove of trees, surrounded by native plants, and flanked by artfully placed boulders. A restaurant with a green roof, art installations, bike parking, improved pedestrian circulation, and cultural programming will round out the redevelopment. Trolley waiting stations will have green roofs, too. The one acre site presents some challenges. For safety, the landscaping has to be low enough to allow clear sightlines, and trees cannot be too tall, or they risk interference with the trolleys' catenary wires. Construction on the 40th Street Trolley Portal will begin in 2016, with an opening set for 2017. UDC states that the project will cost $2.1 million.
Designers and doctors know instinctively what science now confirms: design that connects people to light, air, and green space reduces stress and facilitates the healing process. Putting research into action, the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia's tapped New York's Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects to design the Buerger Center for Advanced Pediatric Care at the hospital's main campus in West Philadelphia. Houston-based FKP Architects is the architect of record. The 700,000 square foot outpatient facility is comprised of a rectangular, 12 story main wing, and a connected six story wing of Jetsons-esque stacked floors whose bottoms are painted bright red, yellow, green, and blue. A 14,000 square foot roof garden on the top gives patients access to fresh air and a space to play, while a 2.6 acre ground floor plaza is partially planted with medicinals for complementary therapeutic use. In a statement, founding principal Cesar Pelli noted that "depicting the playfulness of children helps reinforce the idea of a positive medical experience." Inside, playful curvature guides eyes to the outside through banks of glass windows, while ramps and welcoming wayfinding signage guide patients and their families through the facilities. The Buerger Center features spaces unique to children's hospitals, including a mock MRI machine that helps health care workers prepare children for the sometimes claustrophobia-inducing procedures. The facility will serve approximately 200,000 young people annually. Specialties are grouped by level. Levels two through five opened this year, while levels six and seven will open in 2017.
What do Safranbolu, Turkey; Gyeongju, Korea; Cidade Velha, Cape Verde; and Philadelphia, PA, have in common? They are all World Heritage Cities. On November 6, the Organization of World Heritage Cities (OWHC) honored Philadelphia with a World Heritage City designation. Philadelphia is the first United States city to be recognized by the OWHC. The mayor's office and city leaders have been advocating for World Heritage City designation since 2013. Philadelphia has the requisite historical chops: UNESCO named Independence Hall, where 18th century diplomats wielded pens over multiple founding documents, a World Heritage Site in 1979. In order to qualify as a World Heritage Site, a place or building must meet at least one of ten selection criteria. The selection criteria require a site to have a historical, political, cultural, aesthetic, scientific, or natural attributes of "outstanding universal value" to humankind. Though UNESCO plays no role in designating World Heritage Cities, OWHC stipulates that a World Heritage City must have at least one UNESCO World Heritage Site. At its 13th annual gathering, the OWHC acknowledged Philadelphia's political significance, voting to include the city in their pantheon of over 266 heritage cities at their latest meeting in Arequipa, Peru. Benefits accrue to member cities. Through the OWHC, municipalities can share information on how to protect their cultural assets and promote heritage tourism. Mayor Michael Nutter hopes that the designation will increase investment in the city and strengthen its (already lucrative) heritage tourism sector. A UNESCO World Heritage Site and an OWHC designation brings visibility to a city's heritage, and encourages travel to chosen sites. Sites are sometimes damaged, however, when designated cities lack the tourism infrastructure to support the increase in visitors. Critics have also called out the OWHC's list for its profound Eurocentrism. Though Philadelphia is a Western city, it does have the capacity to support increased tourism that the World Heritage City title may engender.
The facility will serve students, building operators, building energy auditors, and will be used to support the development of new business ventures in energy efficiency.The Consortium for Building Energy Innovation (CBEI)—formerly the Energy Efficient Buildings Hub—at Philadelphia’s Navy Yard, is a research initiative funded by the Department of Energy and led by Penn State University that seeks to reduce the energy usage of commercial buildings to 50% by 2020. KieranTimberlake, a Philadelphia-based firm located three miles from Navy Yard, was selected by Penn State to renovate a 1940’s Georgian-style brick building to be a living laboratory for advanced energy retrofit technology. Included in the brief was an addition to the building, which evolved into a new stand-alone building across the street on Lot 7R, which aptly became the name of the building. The new 7R building, literally tied to the ground with groundwater-sourced heat pumps, is also formally and tectonically organized around passive solar strategies. A number of daylighting studies drove a re-shape of the building. An initial four-story cube was introduced in Robert A.M. Stern and Associates’ masterplan for the site, but became a long linear east-west oriented low-lying building. This configuration maximizes daylighting while minimizing over-shadowing on the site, establishing a framework for campus growth. 7R is loaded with environmental features including a green roof, a gray water reuse system, integrated daylighting strategies, and geothermal wells. These environmental priorities influenced an approach to building envelope design that balances performance with overriding aesthetics and compositional goals. David Riz, a partner at KieranTimberlake, says the composition of the facade is integral to the siting of the building: “In a large number of our projects, we accentuate the orientation of our buildings with facade treatments.” Brick, chosen for its relationship to a historic Navy Yard context, is utilized as a ‘solar shade,’ opening and closing along the south facade to manage direct heat gain, while eliminating the need for mechanized shades. ‘Rips’ in the brick fabric reveal a transparent glazing system adorned with horizontal sun shade louvers. To the north, the building visually connects to adjacent League Island Park by maximizing glazing along an elevated second floor ‘tree-top’ interior walkway. Arguably the most significant feature of the building envelope is a twin-wall assembly of insulated translucent panels, seen prominently along the length of the north facade, allowing the architects to maximize the level of daylight. David Riz says the panels are notably used both performatively and compositionally, spanning 19’ tall from the plenum to the roof coping: “We wanted to create syncopation in the patterning. We were trying to get a dual read on a long linear building introducing key moments as your eye moves along the building.” The panels are incorporated into the west facade as a primary material to help manage a harsh late-afternoon sun in the large auditorium’s break out space. Riz celebrates the success of the facade in managing a difficult western orientation through diffusing harsh sunlight into a soft glow: “When you’re in the break out space, you simultaneously sense the daylight from the west, a view to the north park, and also a view through the flying brick screen to the south. That’s where it all comes together.” Riz considers the quality of daylight filtering through the building envelope to be one of the project’s greatest strengths: “There are very nice moments as you walk through the building because its so narrow where you experience a simultaneity of the south facade and the north facade: a hint of the brick screen through the classrooms, and bays of transparent panels to the other direction.” KieranTimberlake, who recently received an award for Innovative Research at ACADIA 2015, continues to monitor for thermal performance and storm water analysis. In this regard, the 7R building is a blend between high tech data monitoring, paired with low-tech passive strategies and off-the-shelf products. The project, completed within the last year, will be utilized by Penn State for various research programs.
Philadelphia's landscape architecture firm andropogon is redesigning a one mile segment of publicly owned, underused riverbank along the Schuylkill between Grays Ferry Avenue and 58th Street. Industrial development and highway construction has separated residents from the western bank of the riverfront for decades. Andropogon's design goals for Bartram's Mile include integrating the site with existing trails and bike infrastructure, managing stormwater, connecting the riverbank to its urban surroundings, and a design that highlights Bartram’s Garden, the oldest botanic garden in the United States. PlanPhilly's Green2015 plan cites Bartram's Mile as "a major opportunity to convert publicly owned vacant land to public green space before 2015." The project, spearheaded by Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, Schuylkill River Development Corporation (SRDC), and the John Bartram Association (JBA), has been in the works since 2012. While the Green2015 deadline will pass before the greenway is built, stakeholders anticipate the project will be complete by 2016. Right now, Bartram's Mile is in its concept and visioning phase. Stakeholders envision bike paths, quiet spaces for tai chi, and landscaping that encourages interaction with the water. When complete, the park will provide another crucial link in the region's trail network that includes the Schuylkill River Trail, and the planned 750 mile Circuit hike and bike trail network (300 of those miles exist today).
For many homeowners and landlords, big ticket repairs can leave gaping holes in the budget. For many low income homeowners, mending a leaky roof or weatherizing an older home can be prohibitively expensive. Vital repairs go unmade, damaging the structure and exposing residents to mold and weather extremes. Responding to this challenge, the Design Advocacy Group, a coalition of planners, architects, and activists, founded the Healthy Rowhouse Project (HRP) in 2014. HRP is a nonprofit organization that helps Philadelphia's low income homeowners and renters maintain their properties. The project's goal is to spend up to $5o million each year to weatherize and de-mold 5,000 homes, at a cost of $10,ooo per home. The project will be supported and funded through grants from the Oak Foundation, an anti-homelessness organization based in Geneva. In Philadelphia, 38 percent of homeowners have an annual income of less than $35,000. Often, residents choose between living in a deteriorating structure, or abandoning the property and moving elsewhere. Experts estimate that a vacant home can bring down the value of adjacent properties by as much as $8,000. Philadelphia has an astonishing 40,000 vacant houses. The Design Advocacy Group initially approached homeowners in Mantua, one of the poorest neighborhoods in the country, about how they could benefit from the area's gentrification. Overwhelmingly, residents requested financial and technical assistance to maintain their homes. Philadelphia spends between $9 million and $13 million per year on community development block grants that go to low-income homeowners. Demand outstrips supply: applicants face a four year long wait list. What about building new housing? Traditionally, that is the role of the Community Development Corporation (CDC). HRP leader and fair housing advocate Karen Black noted in the Philadelphia Citizen that a typical CDC can only build around 30 units per year. The HRP, Black emphasized, is not building new housing, it is helping residents stay in their current homes. To realize this goal, HRP is creating an a la carte menu of repair options—deferred home equity loans, block grants, or, for renters, landlord assistance—that help residents access money to pay local contractors for repairs. The plan could work without buy-in from the city, but the project would really fly with the Mayor's and City Council's support.
Philadelphia’s Bergmann Associates reveal plans for Grays Ferry Triangle pedestrian plaza on South Street
Philadelphia's South of South Neighborhood Association (SOSNA) Grays Ferry Avenue Triangles Committee is making moves on a new plaza at 23rd Street at South Street. This plaza follows the well-trod path of its predecessors, touting amenities like seating and trees, as well as building South Philly's neighborhood identity and civic pride. The Grays Ferry Triangle Project, presented at DesignPhiladelphia this month, will convert the area into a pedestrian plaza with cafe seating, a bike docking station, and benches made of local Wissahickon schist. Concentric cobblestone circles will help manage stormwater runoff. Philadelphia's Bergman Associates drafted the plaza design. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DPWJRNk1SRA A major feature of this plaza is a seven-foot-wide drinking fountain. Erected by the Women’s Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in 1901, the fountain provided free drinking water for horses on the top tier and dogs on the lower level. Grays Ferry Avenue Triangles Committee stipulated that in the design there be enough room to sit "campfire style" around the fountain. SOSNA will use the design to solicit funding to implement the project. Consequently, there is no construction timeline in place at this time.
A local Philadelphia artist has been commissioned to re-interpret a Baroque painting of the Virgin Mary, commonly known as "Mary The Untier Of Knots." The piece that was originally painted by Georg Melchior Schmidtner in the 1700s is apparently among Pope Francis' favorite works of art. The Pope is heading into Philly on September 26 before the Festival of Families celebration. His tour will start at Eakins Oval, and then head down the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, around City Hall and then travel back up the Benjamin Franklin Parkway before ending at the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. "People have expressed a desire for inclusivity of all so that none are marginalized," artist Meg Saligman told NPR in an interview. "And it's also issues of homelessness and hunger, struggle, issues of race and immigration." Saligman's process involved asking people to write about a personal struggle on a white plastic ribbon when she visited churches, congregations, homeless shelters, public spaces, even using the internet. The work will sit outside the Basilica of Saints Peter & Paul in downtown Philadelphia, where Pope Francis will deliver mass later this month. "The idea is to have every inch of the dome covered with these messages to get people to share their experiences," said Saligman. The Bishop of Rome appears to be a fan of alternative artistic representations of religious works. Earlier this year he took a hermeneutic approach to a communist crucifix, taking the gift from Bolivia with him back home.