Context - Fall 2016 - 18

Programmatically, the design remains simple. A path moves between areas of planting
and seating. Four large wooden platforms punctuate the site. Their multi-faceted surfaces
create spaces for lounging and gathering. The main walkway culminates in a series of
iconic, civic-scale swings which can be seen from the street below.

neighborhood devoid of open, public, green space. The lack of green
space has been an impetus for the viaduct's development, and the
laborious process of design and fund-raising has built a rich community
of supporters essential to realizing .its transformation into the Rail Park.
The lack of opportunity for new green space is a ubiquitous problem
in high-density cities. Large, continuous swaths of land are not often
available in an historic urban environment with evolving needs, land
uses, and development patterns. As evidenced in this city, new development tends to be driven by the residential market, with supportive
commercial or open space uses potentially following. As a result, green
infrastructure development is built piecemeal, as a retrofit, leaving
some neighborhoods greener than others. Alternatively, Philadelphia,
like many post-industrial cities, is embracing abandoned infrastructure
as an opportunity for new open space - a greening of infrastructure,
certainly, but not necessarily green infrastructure.
In that regard, the Callowhill neighborhood and superblocks to the east
are supremely positioned for green infrastructure-led development. The
area has long been a transitional industrial zone. Following the demolition
of numerous blocks of factories, warehouses, commercial and residential
structures, the vast parking lots, buried streams, and mapped streets
throughout the area offer an unparalleled opportunity to think about
development from a green-infrastructure-first perspective. With immediate
adjacency to Center City, successful entertainment enterprises, a stock of
historic structures, a northerly push from Chinatown and pending resurrection of neighborhood icons, such as the Divine Lorraine and the viaduct,
it certainly feels plausible.
Public open space projects in Philadelphia, the Rail Park included, are
up against constraints experienced by cities nationwide and also contend
with an array of federal and state challenges, not the least of which is the

Thick hunks of wood and steel reflect the scale of the
industry that formerly inhabited the space.


FALL 2016 | context | AIA Philadelphia

limited financial resources available for construction and management of
new green infrastructure. Much of the Rail Park's funding has been tied up
during the impasse over the state budget. At the local level, development
of multi-functional green space, competes with other needs for funding
resources. These projects require the support of multiple entities, public
and private, to contribute some share toward specific goals of the project
- stormwater management, economic development, quality of life, street
improvements. Collectively, they represent an investment and belief in a
community and its long-term future. Friends of the Rail Park, in collaboration
with the Center City District, the City of Philadelphia's Department of Parks
and Recreation and others, have driven the park towards implementation
and ensure its ongoing maintenance and care. This collection of committed
supporters and the growing social network of users forms the basis of a
sustainable public space with a lasting impact on the surrounding community, but projects like this one still have significant obstacles.
Competition with open space programming in the form of Pop-Ups,
tactical urbanism and temporary events presents a further challenge to
green infrastructure development like the Rail Park. The concept for the
Pop-Up Shop originated from a consumer culture driven by the need for
rare, limited-edition products. Pop-Up sites are experience driven. Their
arrival is unexpected, their presence indeterminate, and they promote
an exclusivity of product and space. The Pop-up phenomenon has
moved from transitory guerilla activity to a more established player in
the urban fabric of Philadelphia and other cities, in the U.S. and abroad.
Many Pop-Ups take the form of seasonal gardens, and celebrate underutilized physical resources. Pop-Ups in Philadelphia have taken a more
strategic approach to initial concepts, and have developed a consistent
fan-base of beer garden-lovers. It is worth considering the root of the
great success temporary spaces have experienced in Philadelphia, but


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
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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
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Context - Fall 2016 - Expression
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Context - Fall 2016 - Design Profiles
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Context - Fall 2016 - 36
Context - Fall 2016 - Marketplace
Context - Fall 2016 - Index to Advertisers
Context - Fall 2016 - cover3
Context - Fall 2016 - cover4