PARKLETS ARE IN THE AIR by Andrew Jacobs

Photo Aug 21, 1 01 52 PM.jpg

Katrina Rogus is a Landscape Architect at SALT

The end of summer has seemed to settle over Philadelphia over the last couple of weeks. The humidity has dissipated, gardens are full of juicy tomatoes, and students of all ages are getting ready for school again. The end of summer brings one more great thing to our city: PARK(ING) DAY.

2017 marks the 10th anniversary of Parking Day in Philadelphia. It’s also the first year that SALT Design Studio is participating, along with the first year that I am participating since I’ve been out in the professional world. The idea of Parking Day was started in 2005 in San Francisco by Rebar, an art and design firm, and it’s been growing in the U.S. and all over the world for the last 12 years. The original concept of Parking Day was to acknowledge the need for green spaces in urban environments by transforming on-street parking spots into mini parks, or parklets.

Since 2005, Parking Day has been evolving in both thought and execution. Although the original message of increased green space in cities is still an important one, I think Parking Day carries other important messages. These include: decreasing the importance of cars in our cities, increasing the amount of public space in our cities, and promoting conversation and collaboration among people, professions, and organizations of all types.

This year, SALT is teaming up with three other organizations – Recyclebank, The Post-Landfill Action Network (PLAN), and City CoHo Philly’s Nexus – to create a collaborative parklet.  Our collective goal is to educate the passersby about the sustainable initiatives that we each represent.  SALT’s message will focus on green stormwater infrastructure, increasing plants in urban environments, and repurposing materials that would otherwise go to landfills.  Recyclebank’s message will focus on properly recycling materials and how recycling can benefit you, your community, and your local landfill.  PLAN's message will focus on empowering college and university aged students to start Zero Waste initiatives on their campus, from composting in dorms and dining halls, to closing the loop on campus with student-run thrift stores.  Last but not least, City CoHo’s message will focus on co-working and collaborating, which can reduce energy and infrastructure needs by bringing people together under one roof.  City CoHo is the big umbrella that SALT, Recyclebank, and PLAN all fall under; it’s how we all met and why we’re all coming together to promote one large idea of sustainability to the people of Philadelphia.

Now the fun begins: the building, the painting, the planting, and the park-ing! Follow us on social media to watch our progress and see day-of photos and videos. And be sure to look for our team and come say hi on Friday, September 15th on the 1900 block of Chestnut Street, park-ed right across from the mini-Target.

Who: SALT Design Studio  |  Recyclebank  |  PLAN  |  City CoHo

What: PARK(ing) Day Philadelphia|  www.parkingdayphila.org  |  #PARKingDayPHL

Where: 1900 Block of Chestnut Street (across from Target)

When: All Day - Friday, September 15, 2017

THE LANDSCAPE OF URBAN INFRASTRUCTURE by Andrew Jacobs

Spring Garden Street Connector Photo credited to Delaware River Waterfront Corporation

Spring Garden Street Connector Photo credited to Delaware River Waterfront Corporation

Steve Buck is a Senior Landscape Architect at SALT Design

If I asked you to think of examples of public open space in a city, what types of places come to mind?  A leafy urban park amidst the surrounding bustle of the city streets?  A vibrant public plaza filled with people? A quiet seating area overlooking the waterfront?  What if the next time you were asked this question, your mind jumped to the space underneath a highway overpass or along a rail line?  Sound crazy? 

The February issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine featured a series of articles under the title “Found Ground, Putting the City Back Together.”   One of the major themes of the issue was how design professionals have found opportunities to create public space around our cities existing urban transportation infrastructure, such as elevated or below-grade highways, rail corridors, and bridges.  While this infrastructure serves a critical role creating connections at a regional scale, it has historically neglected to address the spaces adjacent to its significant physical footprint.  The ramifications of this development can be seen throughout many cities across the country as countless examples of massive highway and urban transportation projects have demolished large swaths of inner cities and displaced residents, many times forming physical barriers within our cities at the pedestrian and local street levels. The magazine featured several projects that took a holistic approach to the implementation of large-scale urban infrastructure, leveraging this development to create exciting new public open spaces, increase developable land, and strengthen the connections that may have been previously severed. 

It is interesting to apply this type of thinking to Philadelphia as significant transportation projects have left some large scars across the dense historic cityscape. We don’t need to look very far to find examples; just look at the decades-long struggle to create better connections between Center City and the Delaware River due to the physical separation caused by the I-95 corridor running along the waterfront.  Similarly, the Schuylkill Expressway has virtually eliminated access to the western bank of the Schuylkill through much of Center City.  Additionally, there are miles and miles of underutilized space along the urban rail corridors and highways that cross the city’s landscape. 

While Philadelphia has its challenges, there appears to have been a change in momentum with a series of recent projects that follow the spirit of the magazine’s premise.  Cira Green is a public park located on top of a parking structure that provides a new urban green space near the dense city core (Not to mention providing some dynamic views of the Center City skyline).  In the northwestern part of the city, a beautiful yet defunct rail bridge was retrofitted and now serves as a multi-use trail to connect the Cynwyd Heritage Trail to the extensive regional trail network running along the Schuylkill River.  Even smaller interventions such as the lighting improvements at the underpass at the Spring Garden Street El station develop improve the public space by creating a well-lit and appealing pedestrian zone under the rail line.  Future projects such as The Rail Park and the recently released Schuylkill Yards Masterplan are exciting examples of redevelopment happening in the City that utilize existing urban infrastructure.  I-95 has even made recent headlines as Mayor Kenney has provided a $90 million commitment from City Hall to cap an additional portion of the highway and create a significant open space connection to the waterfront.  As a landscape architect, it is encouraging to see these types of projects happening in Philadelphia I am truly excited to see how our City continues to be an active player in the evolution of urban public open space.