Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Possible

Philadelphia's urban sustainability competition, "Brown to Green" challenges students across North America to create a new vision for South Philadelphia's Grays Ferry Crescent. With the industrial DuPont Marshall Laboratory complex closing down and the Schuylkill River Development Corporation extending its riverfront park trail along the edge of the site, this area offers strong potential, but also great challenges. The competition gives students the opportunity to push the envelope on cutting-edge ideas for transforming brownfields of an industrial past into sustainable environs for a green future.

Entrants are encouraged to focus more broadly on the role of industrial sites in a modern city such as Philadelphia" is in the program section of this design criteria.

It's the new standard to bring the old abandoned industrial land uses - particularly oil extraction and refining - into a restored capacity to function within the natural ecosystem and contribute to civic open space. Cities have been implementing ideas like this for years, particularly Seattle and San Francisco. Los Angeles has begun its regeneration along the LA River. This competition provides a view of the information required to develop intelligent design solutions to this kind of a problem, although I have to say that it barely scratches the surface compared to the engineering and geotechnical work studies required to pull this off.

More and more agencies are putting these urban spaces out there for public problem-solving, and it's creating a great public buy-in as well as a refreshing way to capture new energies and ideas. As long as these requested ideas are credited where they're due, it's a great way to help build a vision that the big design and engineering firms can use as a starting point.