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Living city: OLIN Studio's plans for Brewerytown wins design competition

In an International competition to create a truly sustainable city--the Living City Design Competition--a Philadelphia-based landscape architecture firm held its own with an innovative redesign of the often-overlooked Brewerytown neighborhood.

OLIN Studio earned the “Cities that Learn” award for their Patch/Work design entry this past spring. The award highlighted the project’s sensitivity to the cultural realities of the existing neighborhood and the emphasis on social equity. Indeed, the team chose the Brewerytown neighborhood in part because it already had such a strong cultural identity. The Patch/Work design that won the award utilized the historic industry that Brewerytown was built upon as well as its proximity to public transit and the open space of Fairmount Park to create a design that opened access to green space and urban agriculture. Though the plan itself was hypothetical, OLIN Director of Research Skip Graffam believes this sort of plan for Philadelphia, and in Brewerytown especially, is, if not entirely pragmatic, something the city can definitely take steps towards in the future.

The Living City Design Competition had a set of very stringent guidelines pertaining to greenspace and sustainability. Graffam stated that one of his team’s main goals was "not to destroy anything that was already there," so the design played off of the existing structures of the Brewerytown neighborhood. Aspects of the winning design included retrofitting and renovating existing row homes with solar panels and turning empty lots into agricultural and pedestrian areas.  An emphasis on reintroducing industry to the area and easing the commute to green spaces and local agriculture incorporated a plan to refurbish an existing brewery as space for local agricultural commerce. Open-air locavore markets were sprinkled throughout previously abandoned lots. The team gave the transformation a 25-year timeline, in which economic incentives would encourage the changes. Graffam suggested such measures as tax incentives for green, environmentally friendly building.

Graffam says, "Specific criteria wouldn’t work everywhere, but changes in the spirit of the competition could definitely be implemented everywhere."

Source: Skip Graffam, OLIN Studio
Writer: Nina Rosenberg
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