Render to Reality | Morgan’s Pier | Philadelphia USA | Groundswell Design Group

Morgan’s Pier is a restaurant on the west bank of the Delaware River in Philadelphia. Its owners wanted it to have a relaxed backyard feel that would encourage patrons to linger and enjoy its amenities: “We see ourselves as a connection to Center City—a place you can spend 12 hours at.” Groundswell Design Group developed a project that reflects the desires of the owners and respects the conditions of the restaurant’s waterfront setting.

An understanding of Groundswell’s design begins with its materiality. Instead of reworking the space with a host of new materials, Groundswell chose to introduce a large number of reclaimed and found objects to deliver on the vision of a backyard beer garden. It repurposed lumber from old shipping pallets to build planting boxes and wall paneling; dissembled industrial spools to make table tops; and recycled vintage chairs, umbrellas, and market lights. This strategy of deploying recycled objects highlights Morgan’s Pier’s and the entire waterfront’s status as a “recycled place.” It stresses the environmental value of conservation at the same time that it acknowledges the site’s rich history, an objective stressed by the Northern Liberties Waterfront Plan: “The industrial past is what makes the area unique. Giant cargo ships and tankers still traverse the landscape, and this history of shipping and industry should find a voice in the riverfront’s future. Trains, ships, goods, and laborers all came and went within the tightly scheduled shifts of a thriving port.”

Against this rough industrial material, Groundswell layered plantings, bright fabrics, and lighting details that create the warm congeniality of a beer garden. Bright flowers overflow from pallet wood planting boxes and green hops creeps up latticework on the Craft Beer hut. Young linden trees shade visitors sitting amidst the spool tables in planters constructed from box wire and their green leaves frame views of the soaring Ben Franklin Bridge.

Morgan’s Pier | Philadelphia USA | Groundswell Design Group
Photographer| Top Kat Photo

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About Damian Holmes 5666 Articles
Damian Holmes is the Founder and Editor of World Landscape Architecture (WLA). He is a registered landscape architect (AILA) working in international design practice in Australia. Damian founded WLA in 2007 to provide a website for landscape architects written by landscape architects. Connect on Linkedin at

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