The William Penn Foundation, Office of Transportation Infrastructure and Sustainability (oTIS), Philadelphia Parks and Recreation, and Drexel University’s Lindy Institution for Urban Innovation hosted The Parkway Ideas Workshop at the Barnes Foundation on Wednesday evening July 14, 2021. The workshop featured presentations from three international and local design teams: Design Workshop; DLandStudio+Digsau; and MVRDV. They presented their ideas to reimagine the Ben Franklin Parkway as a more vibrant and bicycle/pedestrian-friendly space.
Here is the kick-off event presentation from March of 2021, which introduces each team and the guiding principles that each team had to follow.
Each team was given 20 minutes to present their ideas for the redesign of the Parkway. The first to present was:
Design Workshop – Founded in 1969 and based in North Carolina, this international design studio values building community across cultures, geographies, and economies. They introduced 5 guiding principles for their 10-year design concepts:
History/Culture/Identity – The history of the Parkway is that it was designed to connect Center City and to lavish gardens, until the Vine Street Expressway was designed and cut the grid design down. Design Workshop proposes to redesign the Parkway to honor its original grid design.
Democratic Design/Programming – Making the redesign of the Parkway an inclusive decision from all communities surrounding it. This includes the public, liaisons, stakeholders, and clients to ensure that all parties have a voice in the overall design.
Infrastructure/Mobility – Propose leaving MLK Drive closed, in order to connect communities in West Fairmount to the Parkway and extend it to Market Street. This design would make the Parkway and Logan Square a motorless area. This would divert motorists to Pennsylvania Ave and the Spring Garden St tunnel to navigate around the Parkway.
Environment/Performance – Reintroducing the Parkway to the Schuylkill River, redesigning water run-off irrigation systems, creating more green space, and introducing more trees to deal with the air and sound pollution on the current Parkway.
Economic/Performance/Maintenance – Making the parkway space where the City and its local enterprises can thrive by allowing food ventures more access, including all cultural celebrations/events to occur in the same space, and having a green space that is more self-sustaining.
DLANDstudio and Digsau – DLANDstudio is an interdisciplinary design firm founded in 2005. The Brooklyn-based firm develops methods to layer environmental, engineering, and political structures to make real change in the built environment. Digsau is an award-winning firm practicing contemporary architecture, urbanism, and environmental design based in Philadelphia that is recognized for its expertise in providing unique, high-quality design to a diverse client group. They introduced 5 main ideas for their redesign proposal:
- Restoring the remaining street network civic places, and the governance-to-arts relationship to champion connectivity, celebration, social and cultural exchange, and downtown revitalization and pride.
- Restoring the “original intent” by replacing a car-dominated place with a place that can comfortably, effectively, and equitably meet contemporary needs such as attracting residents, visitors, and investments to the downtown and city, while improving safety, traffic operations and multimodalism.
- Keeping open streets on MLK drive for active transportation, recreation, and reconnecting people to West Fairmount Park. Adding in more round-a-bouts for traffic calming measures.
- Connecting the community back to the Schuylkill River waterfront by restoring the original grid design developed by William Penn. Reintroducing the Parkways natural waterway to its original water flow from the Schuylkill River.
- The emphasis of connecting water, local art, and creating local enterprises on the parkway for people.
MVDRV – Established in 1992 and based in Rotterdam, Netherlands, MVDRC has a global scope, providing solutions to contemporary architectural and urban issues in all regions of the world. Its highly collaborative, research-based design method involves clients, stakeholders, and experts from a wide range of fields from early on in the creative process. They proposed 3 major concepts for the redesign of the Ben Franklin Parkway:
The Green Machine concept would turn the parkway into a lush natural parkway from Eakins Oval all the way down to City Hall. This would replace the center lanes on the parkway and introduce active landscaping with pavilions, small ponds, and gravel trails for pedestrians and active transportation.
The Active Grid is the second concept that was proposed which is a more traditional approach to the redesign of the parkway. This idea would incorporate William Penn’s grid concept to integrate the parkway with the surrounding communities. The parkway would be divided into diverse blocks including more space for small shops, food venues, and block-by-block green spaces.
The Urban Theater is the third idea that would transform the parkway into an active theater green space and will emphasize a more performing art perspective. The center lanes on the parkway would be transformed into a pedestrian boulevard while the outer lanes would be converted into an active edge. This would start at Eakins Oval and end at Logan Square.
All three design firms proposed contemporary and innovative ideas for the parkway. These concepts would reinvent and repurpose the parkway for pedestrians, bicyclists, and the entire Philadelphia community. All of the proposed ideas had a common thread of reconnecting the parkway to the Schuylkill River, reducing the number of cars on the parkway, acknowledging the history of the City, and inclusion of all people from all walks of life.
The City of Philadelphia will be choosing the best-proposed concept in the coming weeks. Please stay updated with us about the Ben Franklin Parkway redesign through our social media outlets: Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.