Grounds for Change: Activating Vacant Land

Emergent Performative Landscape


Tags: bioretention, earthworks, Eastwick, emergent, filtration, garden, geometry, grading, grow, landscape, lots, nursery, perennial, Philadelphia, play, promenade, propagation, residential, retention, shrub, stormwater, student, surface, terrace, trees, urban, UrbanArboretum, water

Phased tree production accommodates a new community space.

Emergent Performative Landscape is a project by Austin Aronsson, a student in Pennsylvania State University’s undergraduate landscape architecture program.  Aronsson participated in a studio entitled The Urban Arboretum: From Vacancy to Hybrid Landscape, a design course inspired by Matthew Langan’s eponymous proposal for the Urban Voids competition.  The Spring 2010 studio was taught by Tim Baird with assistance from Langan, a graduate of the program.  The project site was a large vacant lot located on Island Avenue in Southwest Philadelphia.

Emergent Performative Landscape is a park organized around five main functions: nursery production, a perennial garden, central promenades, active recreation areas, and stormwater retention.  Intensive planning devoted to tree production cycles and topographical manipulations results in a landscape that changes regularly and lacks a definite point of completion.  The project is called Emergent because of this uncertainty and open-endedness as to the final visual form of the park.  The word also evokes the sustainable qualities of trees produced according to this design.  Visually striking design elements in this project include terraced stormwater retention structures, and tiered propagation stands for seed production.


Urban Arboretum: From Vacancy to Hybrid Landscape. Landscape Architecture 414. The Pennsylvania State University College of Arts and Architecture, Spring 2010.

The Designers