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Fast Forward Philly is almost seven minutes in heaven

As part of the annual DesignPhiladelphia festival last Wednesday at the Center for Architecture, 11 presenters from different creative backgrounds fast forwarded through 20 slides at 20 seconds each (that’s a quick 6 minutes, 40 seconds) to answer a question that is typically reserved for the long-winded among us: What’s next for Philly? 
This is what the first annual Fast Forward Philly was all about; presenters were asked to talk, quickly, about their big ideas for the future of the City. And they were asked to do it fast in an effort to keep interest high and energy levels higher. 
Ideas were incredibly diverse; anything from ‘Silicon Philly! City of Innovation & Opportunity’ to ‘Making a Gardenpark in the City’ and ‘Promoting a "Maker" Economy’ were discussed.  But according to event organizers Kathy Lent and Erike De Veyra, enthusiasm was equally shared.  “We never had fewer than a hundred in the audience throughout the evening, and they all seemed quite engaged,” says De Veyra.  “We noticed that attendees sought out the presenters during intermissions and stayed long past the end of the official event to continue their conversations.”
“It was definitely successful.” exclaims Lent. “Despite the untested format and considering the number of other great DesignPhiladelphia events going on that night, the room was full the entire time.”   
The organizers received overwhelmingly positive feedback from both audience members and presenters.

“More than anything, they wanted to know how to find out more about the ideas brought up,” says DeVeyra.   

Michael Burlando and Alex Feldman's presentation on "Philadelphia Summer Olympics 2024" was particularly popular among attendees.

"By first looking backward at the history of greatness in Philly and then projecting forward to point out strategic locations for the integration of Olympic facilities into the city's existing fabric, the sheer novelty of the idea was a perfect fit for the event theme," explains Lent. 
Halee Bouchehrain's "B.Y.O.B.: Build Your Own Building" was another stand-out, providing a glimpse of cost-efficient residential construction.
"Halee presented an alternative approach to the standard developer model which produces over-hyped cookie-cutter apartment units," says Lent. "She introduced the audience to an idea already in practice in Europe, where individual units span the depth of a floor, allowing for multiple window exposures, and interlock with adjacent units above, below, and to the sides, creating more interesting spaces that better meet the needs of the residents than a single-story box."

Ultimately, initiating the conversation on big ideas like these was the goal of Fast Forward.  “We hoped to inspire audience members to learn, connect, and maybe make some of these ideas actually happen,” says Lent. 
Earlier in the year, Lent and De Veyra, both of whom are architects in training, came to the conclusion that there were far too many big ideas going unnoticed in Philadelphia.  “There is a hub of creatives in this city with different perspectives and experiences,” explains De Veyra, “and it would be fantastic if they talked more to each other.”  And so, to facilitate the conversation, Fast Forward was born. 
Erike and Kathy both anticipate that, since Fast Forward was so popular, it will turn into an annual event.  Next time, expect an even greater set of multidisciplinary presenters and ideas.  “By the end of the event, it was clear that nearly every presenter was either an architect or trained in architecture,” remarks Lent, who says that was an unintended consequence.  For next year, she says their goal is to “attract many diverse perspectives on ‘What’s Next for Philly?’”
By appealing to a wider cross-section of forward-thinking Philadelphians, De Veyra and Lent believe this will help differentiate Fast Forward as a forum for up-and-coming doers and thinkers to pitch their vision for the future of the city.  “The world is always changing and needs new, fresh ideas,” says De Veyra. “This is one place we hope to continue sharing that energy and enthusiasm.”    

Source: Kathy Lent and Erike De Veyra, Fast Forward Philly organizers
WriterGreg Meckstroth
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