Grounds for Change: Activating Vacant Land

The Urban Arboretum


Tags: agriculture, building, business, city, community, corridors, cover, cycle, forest, grow, horticulture, industrial, industry, lots, lotsoflots, material, neighborhood, nursery, Philadelphia, planting, policy, production, reforestation, transplant, trees

Returning Philadelphia to forest.

Matt Langan’s proposal for urban forestry in Philadelphia was a finalist in the Urban Voids competition.

Landscape architects often turn to historical precedents for design inspiration for new topics in landscape. Urban Arboretum questions whether designs for Philadelphia’s urban voids should be based upon the traces of previous occupants. Perhaps the city should instead move toward embracing the productive potential lying dormant in these sites. Instead of a comprehensive development plan, individual sites could provide a flexible strategy open to change, restoring texture and density to the voids in a manner sufficiently flexible to be incorporated into future development.

This proposal offers an alternative to perfunctory development solutions: Philadelphia can discover a new “vegibility” by which communities may be identified through the implementation of urban reforestation tactics. This “transitory landscape” will conditionally program voids, and help stabilize the municipal economy and population, while adapting to the imminent growth of the city. Philadelphia’s urban reforestation will accomplish several goals. Reforesting the voids will encourage economic growth and environmental benefits, such as cleaner air and water, heat-island reduction, and carbon sequestration. Since realizing large-scale urban planning in Philadelphia is improbable due to difficult financial conditions, this proposal provides residents the opportunity to adapt features of the programmed voids to best suit their needs.

This reforestation proposal identifies areas of Philadelphia with the most intense urban voids as the most likely catalysts for change. Different forms of urban voids are identified as prototypes that, in any combination, encompass every void type in the city. These prototypes can be programmed with creative and distinctive reforestation tactics depending on immediate and long-term needs of each Philadelphia neighborhood.