Reimagining Philly’s Schoolyards
On May 10, 2012, the Community Design Collaborative and AIA Philadelphia hosted “Transforming Urban Schoolyards,” a day-long design charrette to foster collaboration between design professionals, community groups, public agencies, students and school staff to develop design concepts for two public schoolyards in Philadelphia—including the John B. Kelly Elementary School in Germantown and the Henry C. Lea Elementary School in West Philadelphia. That same day, Mayor Michael Nutter announced that transforming schoolyards in underserved neighborhoods from paved parking lots into multi-functional outdoor spaces for learning, socializing, and play was a key goal identified by the City of Philadelphia in its Green 2015 Pilot Program.
OLIN Partner Hallie Boyce participated as a member of a review panel made up of key stakeholders and design professionals. The panel reviewed design concepts developed by four volunteer design teams. Landscape Architect Jen Martel also participated as a member of one of the design teams.
The designs included ideas about how to maximize green infrastructure to clean air, mediate microclimate, manage stormwater and provide public places of beauty that encourage children to become stewards of the environment. Features such as rain gardens, bio-swales, cisterns, curb bump-outs and infiltration tree trenches were incorporated into all the designs.
In speaking of the design teams’ approach to the charrette, Jen said, “We considered how the schoolyards could become valued community assets that are populated by individuals, families and community groups when school is not in session. This took the form of modifying existing fences and walls to make the schoolyards more welcoming, creating gateways, and re-thinking the schools’ main entrances. Wellness was another major theme of the day, as we looked at ways to encourage physical fitness and nutrition, such as walking trails, open fields for free play, garden beds and orchards.”
Within the larger objective of preparing local schools and community leaders to transform their schoolyards, the design concepts responded to the needs of the local communities and will serve as models for schools throughout Philadelphia