Grounds for Change: Activating Vacant Land



Tags: agriculture, brownfield, building, corridor, corridors, development, forest, garden, greywater, grow, management, open_space, parks, philadelphia, play, recreation, reforestation, stormwater, urban, water

Taking back the backyard

Timescapes: Taking Back the Backyard, submitted by Jill Desimini and Danilo Martic, proposes to replace vacant land with corridors of open space. Philadelphia’s fabric is unraveled; its population dispersed; its industries abandoned. The result is a chaotic space masking an enormous potential resting within the city. A porous patchwork of vacant lots invites fertilization and stronger, more local systems. Timescapes proposes a strategic open space framework that reveals Philadelphia’s hidden structure—its geologic underpinnings, ridges, and streams, its infrastructure cuts and brownfields, its campuses and parks—and revitalizes dormant space by capitalizing on vibrant nodes of activity. The scheme reflects a notion of the city as a fluid collection of traces and latent structures: corridors will take shape from these tracings and form a hierarchy within the undifferentiated urban grid. By preserving six open corridors, the city will invest in infrastructure to stimulate private development and encourage resettlement. Intertwined ribbons of public space will create collective backyards for residential development. A connective tissue of yards will transition from private outdoor space to city-wide landscape corridors, establishing a gradient between hard surfaces and fields of soft ground. Residual patches framed by the preserved corridors will be available to independent development and remain flexible, accomodating the desires of different owners, designers, styles, phases, and ideologies of the growing city. The public realm will be a continuum of spaces, rather than a group of discrete destinations. A sustainable urban ecology demands this intersystemic connectivity. Connections between open spaces will restore human and wildlife habitats and a new 24-hour living city will emerge from the retrofitted vacant land.