OLIN earns Cities that Learn Award for Patch/Work

OLIN-Living City Design Competition

The organic nature of the distribution of community greens and new building stock correlates to the dynamic nature of eco-zoning which favors transformation at the parcel level, allowing the neighborhoods to evolve over time rather than the conventional approach of wholesale replacement.

OLIN‘s submission to the Living City Design Competition, has recently earned them the Cities that Learn Award from the International Living Future Institute and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The award acknowledges that OLIN’s proposal remained true to the project site’s rich, historical roots, and explored how social equity can lead to ecologically restored cities. The project team was led by OLIN Partner and Director of Research Skip Graffam, and included collaborators Interface Studio and Digsau. The team was one of six winners out of over 80 entrants from across the globe.

OLIN-Living City Design Competition

The living machine park in Brewerytown combines an indoor winter garden with a water treatment facility.

OLIN-Living City Design Competition

The blocks were once composed of a tight-knit street fabric of row homes and masonry commercial uses, all within close proximity to breweries. After Prohibition and the rise of the suburbs, the neighborhood declined into a hodge-podge of viable homes, derelict buildings and vacant lots awaiting a new future.

As Director of Research, Graffam viewed the competition as a research opportunity to inform future work within the OLIN studio. Since sustainability, regenerative green infrastructure and community engagement are increasingly vital components of the contemporary practice of landscape architecture, he points out, “This competition and its holistic approach to urban sustainability is really an early model of what landscape architects are going to be asked to do in the future.” He is confident that OLIN’s participation in the competition will contribute to a vital dialogue on the future of design, as greater accountability and integrated thinking will be necessary to change cities and communities for the better.

OLIN-Living City Design Competition

The design team analyzed Philadelphia’s vacant and low value lands to determine which neighborhoods of the city would benefit most from an urban sustainability initiative.

Patch/Work’s major focus was on scale and incremental development in order to render the site in a way that improves its ecological health, while keeping intact the historic architecture, street grid and overall character of the historic Philadelphia neighborhoods of Brewerytown and North Central. Rather than taking a traditional, linear master planning approach, OLIN’s unique concept of the “evolving block” phased in new infrastructure over a span of 25 years. The proposal evaluated regulatory strategies, planning incentives and political steps that would encourage and facilitate development, laying out a feasible plan for implementation that can be used as a model to inform real-life sustainable initiatives.Patch/Work creates opportunities, Graffam explains, from the “challenges resulting from the past 50 years of abandonment—inserting living systems into the block structure of the neighborhood and reconciling the rift between the urban fabric, nature, the energy grid and hydrologic infrastructure.”

OLIN-Living City Design Competition

An active locavore market and roadway are shaded by a solar canopy.

OLIN-Living City Design Competition

The empty greens surrounding the Norman Blumberg Apartments are replaced with a farm, bringing fresh vegetables for the neighborhood. The towers are retrofitted with dynamic renewable energy façades.

Strategies for energy, open space, economic and social life, architectural development and water systems were integral to the success of Patch/Work. To satisfy the competition’s 100% on-site renewable energy demand for thousands of households, the team lined the commercial spine along Ridge Avenue with solar power-collecting canopies, and retrofitted numerous housing units with façades covered in photovoltaic panels. The team also devised a contiguous open space system, using vacant parcels that punctuate the blocks of row homes to create an integrated, pedestrian-friendly network of green spaces, populated by play areas, community gardens and urban farming. Existing row homes were examined for their potential to be retrofitted, renovated or replaced. The materials of structures deemed necessary for demolition would be reused elsewhere in the neighborhoods, supplying over 30 million bricks and three million square feet of wood for the building of new homes. To meet the net zero water requirements, the team aggregated the urban parks made of formerly vacant parcels to house district-level water treatment centers, and reconceived backyard alleys as new streets to connect the existing infrastructure. The long-abandoned Red Bell Brewery was refurbished to create local jobs and opportunities for locavore farming and consumption; this also achieved the competition criteria to provide 80 percent of the district’s food needs from locations within a 500-mile radius.

OLIN-Living City Design Competition

Three typologies of renovation are proposed based upon the condition of building stock. Type 1 structures are existing properties that are retrofitted to preserve historic quality while maximizing energy and water efficiency. Type 2 construction completely guts existing building interiors for a complete sustainable rehab. Type 3 calls for the demolition of uninhabitable buildings to be replaced with modern row homes.

OLIN-Living City Design Competition

The 21st Century backyard is replete with fruiting orchards, community play spaces and private terraces. The surface is a mix of native ground covers and permeable pavements. Each property captures stormwater on site in below-grade cisterns, treating and reprocessing greywater for extended cycling of water use. The design reduces on-site water consumption to nine gallons of potable water per day, versus the American average of 69 gallons.

IMAGE CREDIT: OLIN, Digsau, and Interface Studio

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