Context - Fall 2016 - 17

The Viaduct Rail Park, Phase One is a linear park comprised of a variety of
sequential zones, including the Entrance, the Triangle, the Midspan, and Callowhill
Terminus. The SEPTA Spur is approximately the same square footage as the central
plaza and gardens at Rittenhouse Square.

Just a few blocks north of the Pennsylvania Convention Center is a
neighborhood that claims a handful of appellations as its own: the
Eraserhood, the Loft District, Callowhill, and Chinatown North. To get
there, walk up Twelfth Street from the convention center, pass over the
gash of Interstate 676 and the wide expanse of surface Vine Street, a
few parking lots, former warehouse buildings-come-apartments, art
galleries, and eating establishments and behold the thick stone arches
and catenary structures of the former Reading Viaduct that carried trains
into Center City for almost 100 years. In just a block and a half, the
whole ethos of the landscape transforms before your eyes, from Center
City to Chinatown, to commuter passage, to something unique - The
Callowhill neighborhood. Home to young and old, professionals, artists,
fabricators, the struggling, the successful, and everyone in-between. It is
a neighborhood that reflects the grit and interminability that made this
city a powerhouse of the industrial revolution and it is the neighborhood
in which the Rail Park's first phase will be built.
In 2011, the Center City District engaged Studio Bryan Hanes to
develop a plan with the local community for the quarter-mile SEPTA
Spur, the first phase of the 3-mile Rail Park, which rises above grade from
13th Street east to 11th. As a first step in the design process, the team
gathered residents and stakeholders from the surrounding Callowhill
and Chinatown neighborhoods to discussion-based meetings where
they were invited to express hopes and concerns for the neighborhood
and the viaduct's role within it. The result was a list of priorities for the
design, underscored by the desire to maintain material authenticity,
local integrity, and visual simplicity. (At the time, our firm was also part
of a team working with the Philadelphia City Planning Commission to
explore development potential, open space needs and transit accessibility
within the neighborhoods, which provided an opportunity to consider
the SEPTA Spur in the larger context of this section of the city and the
entirety of the proposed Rail Park).
The proposed design builds on the emotion and intuition expressed
by the community and their connection to the heritage of the place.
They spoke of solid and durable materials, but also of what we perceived
as a residential landscape in a neighborhood of warehouses with no
stoop, no backyard, and no picket fence. Thick hunks of wood and
steel reflect the scale of the industry that formerly inhabited the space,
while programmatic elements such as swings, stoops and porches were
conceived of as those missing commonplace touches, presented at a
civic scale - the domestic landscape writ large. It is worth noting that
the entirety of the elevated portion of the viaduct (north to Fairmount
Avenue) is almost the same square footage as Rittenhouse Square. The
SEPTA Spur, coincidentally, is nearly the same square footage as the
central plaza and gardens of Rittenhouse Square.
From the windows of our studio, we can watch a consistent stream of
visitors to the industrial relic and its ankle-breaking stone ballast surface.
Activity on the elevated rail line has been building for years. Though the
park has not officially broken ground or opened to the public, guided
tours and urban explorers frequent the space, speculating about its
potential as a community amenity that crosses through a burgeoning
The plan illustrates a suggestion for much-needed green space in the Callowhill-Chinatown
North neighborhood and the location of the Rail Park.

AIA Philadelphia | context | FALL 2016 17


Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Context - Fall 2016

Editors’ Letter
Up Close
Design Profiles
Index to Advertisers
Mayor Kenney’s Infrastructure Policy
Green Infrastructure in Philadelphia: The Reading Viaduct Rail Park
Streets: They’re Not Just for Cars Any More
Context - Fall 2016 - ebelly1
Context - Fall 2016 - ebelly2
Context - Fall 2016 - cover1
Context - Fall 2016 - cover2
Context - Fall 2016 - 3
Context - Fall 2016 - 4
Context - Fall 2016 - Editors’ Letter
Context - Fall 2016 - Community
Context - Fall 2016 - 7
Context - Fall 2016 - 8
Context - Fall 2016 - 9
Context - Fall 2016 - Up Close
Context - Fall 2016 - 11
Context - Fall 2016 - Mayor Kenney’s Infrastructure Policy
Context - Fall 2016 - 13
Context - Fall 2016 - 14
Context - Fall 2016 - 15
Context - Fall 2016 - Green Infrastructure in Philadelphia: The Reading Viaduct Rail Park
Context - Fall 2016 - 17
Context - Fall 2016 - 18
Context - Fall 2016 - 19
Context - Fall 2016 - Streets: They’re Not Just for Cars Any More
Context - Fall 2016 - 21
Context - Fall 2016 - 22
Context - Fall 2016 - 23
Context - Fall 2016 - 24
Context - Fall 2016 - 25
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Context - Fall 2016 - 27
Context - Fall 2016 - Expression
Context - Fall 2016 - 29
Context - Fall 2016 - Design Profiles
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Context - Fall 2016 - 35
Context - Fall 2016 - 36
Context - Fall 2016 - Marketplace
Context - Fall 2016 - Index to Advertisers
Context - Fall 2016 - cover3
Context - Fall 2016 - cover4