Interns Focus on Green Infrastructure
OLIN’s summer interns developed a green infrastructure-inspired design concept that transforms the schoolyard at Chester A. Arthur School, a Philadelphia elementary school. The intern team participated in a two week design charrette working directly with the client, the Friends of Chester A. Arthur School Education Foundation (FoCA) and other key stakeholder groups, under the guidance of Partner and Director of Green Infrastructure Steve Benz, Partner Richard Roark, Associate Sophie Robitaille and Landscape Architect Jen Martel.
“OLIN’s 2012 internship program focused on a real project to demonstrate and enhance the interns’ skills and capabilities,” said Steve Benz. “The interns interacted directly with the client and were given the opportunity to solve real-world issues. They also focused on green infrastructure, an increasingly important topic in the world of landscape architecture today.”
The team kicked off the project with several site visits, touring the grounds of the school and interviewing faculty and staff to thoroughly understand the challenges and opportunities. They observed significant infrastructural and environmental challenges such as standing water on the roof, uneven pavement, and a conspicuous lack of shade and playground equipment. They also identified a myriad of opportunities, including a committed faculty and staff, a vibrant community and partnership network, bold murals and graphics on the site and an energetic student body eager to participate in school improvements. Following the visits, the interns met with key stakeholder groups including FoCA, the Chester A. Arthur School’s faculty and administration and the Philadelphia Water Department.
The proposed plan outlines a phased strategy which includes a sustainable approach to building and managing active and lively urban schoolyards. In the plan, stormwater is captured and reused for irrigation, and solar panels installed on the roof will power exterior lights. Trees and shade structures mitigate the urban heat island effect, and when school is not is session, the schoolyard serves as a community park.
In re-imagining the schoolyard, the intern team considered children as the primary user group. The robust program, including play structures, outdoor classrooms, a multi-use ball court and edible gardens, are tied together with bold graphics and an exercise track. Chester A. Arthur School is one of the most equipped public elementary schools for children with disabilities in Philadelphia. The team’s design responded to this in several ways, including the creation of a sensory garden in an enclosed courtyard. The proposed report states, “All who enter the site could benefit from the sound of clean running water, the taste of fresh greens, the scents of blossoms, the touch of things cool and soft, and the sight of bold colors and green growth.”
After two intensive weeks of developing the design concept, the intern team presented their final recommendations to the client, stakeholders and members of OLIN’s studio. The visionary proposal will enable FoCA to raise funds in support of an incremental schoolyard transformation.