HUD Selects PennDesign/OLIN Team for Rebuild by Design

Fri. 9 August


WASHINGTON, D.C.--US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary and Chair of the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force Shaun Donovan announced today that the University of Pennsylvania School of Design, together with OLIN, has been named one of ten finalist teams who will participate in Rebuild by Design, a multi-stage collaborative effort to advance innovative, research-based resilience for communities from New Jersey to Rhode Island.  

The Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force, created by President Obama and headed by Secretary Donovan, is charged with leading the federal government’s efforts to rebuild communities devastated by the storm. The Task Force in turn released a Request for Qualifications on June 21 to attract world-class talent, promote innovation and develop projects that will be built. PennDesign/OLIN team was chosen from among 148 applicants representing the top engineering, architecture, design, landscape architecture and planning firms as well as research institutes and universities worldwide.

HUD plans to implement the best solutions from Rebuild by Design using funds made available through the Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) program as well as other public and private resources. As the lead funding partner, The Rockefeller Foundation will provide support for the analysis and design process, following on their commitment to promoting urban resilience through a $100 million investment in the “100 Resilient Cities Centennial Challenge.” The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) is also supporting the competition. 

The PennDesign/OLIN team combines the strength of PennDesign in cross-disciplinary research, design and communication, experience across the Northeast region, and institutional capacity to sustain long campaigns for change. The team features high-capacity, strategic design practices: OLIN for landscape and urban design, and design and research integration, Happold Consulting for engineering of living regions and coastal infrastructure, HR&A Advisors for market and financing strategies, and E-Design Dynamics for hydrology and ecosystems. 

The PennDesign/OLIN team includes Dean Marilyn Taylor, Professor John LandisLandscape Architecture faculty members Ellen Neises and Lucinda Sanders and PennPraxis Director Harris SteinbergProfessor Eugenie Birch is serving as a member of the Rebuild by Design Research Advisory Group.

PennDesign/OLIN's proposal, Rebuilding Water Culture, will create a common purpose that ignites action on the part of individual homeowners, businesses, developers, institutions, communities and all levels of government for collective provision of infrastructure at every scale, from the house lot to the region. 

“One of our strengths at PennDesign is in integrating design thinking at every level,” said Dean Taylor. “As a team of experienced academics and practitioners, we want to work with the other teams and the competition organizers to precipitate a culture shift and to build greater community engagement in how water can constructively shape our settlements and the ways in which we inhabit areas vulnerable to water risks."

The team envisions combining technology and living systems—dunes, creeks, wetlands as well as the towns and cities of the shore—in a systemic infrastructure that responds to social settings, political ecosystems, and the water dynamics of the coastal landscape. The team intends to integrate a range of tools to shape settlement patterns and mobilize sustained investment, including charismatic soft and hybrid protection landscapes, new formats of infrastructure-oriented development, risk communication, zoning, incentives and land management policy.

"The ten teams we selected stood out because of the talent they bring to the table, their pioneering ideas and their commitment to innovating with a purpose and competing not just to design but to build something," said Secretary Donovan. "The projects that come out of this competition will save lives and protect communities in this region and - as the Task Force will emphasize in the Rebuilding Strategy to be released in the coming weeks - serve as models as we prepare communities across the country for the impacts of a changing climate.”

The selection of the teams marks the beginning of the design competition, which will ultimately result in resilience projects that will be built or implemented in communities in the Sandy-impacted region. For more information, visit



Megan Schmidgal