The Spring Garden Parklet
In 2018, the host Pennsylvania/Delaware ASLA chapter members and students from Thomas Jefferson University joined the local affiliate of the ACE Mentor Program. The ultimate project, a Parklet, was selected as it offered a unique opportunity for Jefferson, the Arts and Crafts Holdings (a local community developer), and JKRP Architects (the host mentor) to collaborate, do research, and develop design solutions for underutilized streets in the Spring Garden section of Philadelphia. Jefferson and their younger ACE colleagues were teamed throughout the semester with Jefferson introducing ACE to the landscape architecture process in all its complexities. More specifically, they covered community engagement, site analysis, concept development, public review and installation. The teams also explored the economic, social, and ecological issues of the project areas with an additional goal to consider what makes a city great. Philadelphia is currently embarking on a civic space renaissance (among other initiatives), whereby the street and sidewalk are to be reclaimed for pedestrians and bikers.
As William Whyte stated over 40 years ago: “The Street is the river of life in a city, the place where people come together, and the pathway to the center.”
Highly appropriate words of inspiration for the students since the areas under consideration are largely dominated by automobiles and parking lots, with very little green space or outdoor seating. The teams therefore focused on large asphalt parking areas and underutilized streets. Two groups designed parklets – whose low cost, temporary nature allowed each team to test spaces in order to determine the what, where and how that space might be developed. The other groups looked at parking lot designs to reduce storm water, mediate heat island effects, and to consider new program introductions such as outdoor concerts, art installations, and traffic calming.
It is hoped that this Legacy Project will be a catalyst for larger, more permanent initiatives all over Philadelphia. In the meantime, the parklets will provide much needed green space for local citizens to enjoy and forge personal commitments to their own community’s future.