Soak it Up! Design Competition

Green stormwater infrastructures adds more places for people to connect in an already close-knit neighborhoods. image: Urban Engineers, Inc., Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects, Spiezle Architectural Group, Inc.

Green stormwater infrastructure adds more places for people to connect in an already close-knit neighborhood.
image: OLIN, Gilmore & Associates, International Consultants Inc., MM Partners LLC, Penn Praxis, SMP Architects

A recent interdisciplinary design competition, Infill Philadelphia: Soak it Up!, encouraged a wide array of professionals to propose innovative solutions addressing Philadelphia’s aging combined sewer system. According to the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD), about 60% of the city still operates on combined sewer. Through the city’s efforts to become the greenest city in America by 2015, Philadelphia has become a national leader in stormwater management planning and policy by creating Green City, Clean Waters, a progressive 25-year stormwater management plan focusing on using green stormwater infrastructure to reduce pollutants in local waterways.

Rainwater Courtyard, part of the Leveraging Water + Plants design image: Roofmeadow, In Posse, m2 Architecture, Meliora Environmental Design LLC, SED Design, Sere Ltd.

Rainwater Courtyard, part of the Leveraging Water + Plants design
image: Roofmeadow, In Posse, m2 Architecture, Meliora Environmental Design LLC, SED Design, Sere Ltd.

Through a series of events, including exhibitions, workshops, talks, and design charrettes that started in October 2012, Infill Philadelphia: Soak it Up!, a joint project of the PWD, the Community Design Collaborative (CDC), and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), explores how green stormwater infrastructure can revitalize urban neighborhoods. The CDC is a nonprofit organization that has provided pro bono preliminary design services to the Greater Philadelphia area since 1991. Their involvement, especially during the competition, ensured the community’s needs were represented and addressed by the design teams.

The design competition included three sites representative of typical Philadelphia landscapes:

  • The industrial Warehouse Watershed site needed to address an industrial building covering one full city block and a surrounding neighborhood mixed with residential, industrial, and vacancies.
  • On the commercial Retail Retrofit site, the goal was to transform a traditional shopping center into a destination for the community that had a relatable human scale for the mostly pedestrian users.
  • The final site, Greening the Grid, was set in a neighborhood and the goal was to create simple, cost effective solutions that allowed residents to take ownership of their responsibility to improve sustainability.
Roof Drain Garden, part of the Stormwater reStore design. image: Urban Engineers, Inc., Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects, Spiezle Architectural Group, Inc.

Roof Drain Garden, part of the Stormwater reStore design
image: Urban Engineers Inc., Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects, Spiezle Architectural Group

Of the 28 teams–comprised of 101 firms and 315 professionals–that originally submitted designs, nine were selected as finalists. After the finalists presented their designs in Philadelphia at Drexel University’s Academy of Natural Sciences, a jury selected the three winning designs, one for each of the three competition sites:

  • Leveraging Water + Plants in Zero Lot Sites; team: Roofmeadow, In Posse, m2 Architecture, Meliora Environmental Design LLC, SED Design, Sere Ltd.
  • Stormwater reStore; team: Urban Engineers Inc., Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects, Spiezle Architectural Group
  • Meeting Green; team: OLIN Design Studio, Gilmore & Associates, International Consultants Inc., MM Partners LLC, Penn Praxis, SMP Architects
In the Meeting Green design, green infrastructure adds a new dimension to play at Shot Tower Playground. image: OLIN Design Studio, Gilmore & Associates, International Consultants Inc., MM Partners LLC, Penn Praxis, SMP Architects

In the Meeting Green design, green infrastructure adds a new dimension to play at Shot Tower Playground.
image: OLIN, Gilmore & Associates, International Consultants Inc., MM Partners LLC, Penn Praxis, SMP Architects

The competition was featured in the August issue of Grid magazine, a free publication dedicated to sustainability in the Greater Philadelphia area, and entries from the Infill Philadelphia: Soak It Up! competition and other designs for green stormwater infrastructure will be on display this fall through Art in City Hall:

Infill Philadelphia: Soak It Up! Exhibition
Philadelphia City Hall, 2nd and 4th Floors
October 7 through December 7, 2013
Mondays through Fridays, 9 AM to 5 PM

Opening Reception
October 15, 2013
5 to 7 PM
RSVP

In addition, the winners and finalists from the design competition will be featured at the Philadelphia Center for Architecture, 1218 Arch Street, from October 1 through November 22 (Mondays through Saturdays, 10 AM to 6 PM, Sundays, 1 to 5 PM) as part of the Philly Green exhibition.

Pre-presentation exhibition of the finalists' designs. image: Mark Garvin Photo

Exhibition of the finalists’ designs at Drexel University’s Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia
image: Mark Garvin Photo

The Philadelphia Water Department is thrilled with the competition results and is currently sorting through all the innovative ideas and determining which can be implemented first!

by Laurie Beth Donnachie, ASLA, Water Conservation PPN Co-Chair

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