Posted March 7, 2016
  • Setting the stage.  Photo credit: Alison Miner, Philadelphia Museum of Art

  • Dean Marilyn Jordan Taylor helps prepare "paper point." Photo credit: Alison Miner, Philadelphia Museum of Art

  • Bruce Mau advises tables on ideas. Photo credit: Alison Miner, Philadelphia Museum of Art

  • A table brainstorms. Photo credit: Alison Miner, Philadelphia Museum of Art

  • Students Angelina Jones and Madeleine Helmer present table ideas. Photo credit: Alison Miner, Philadelphia Museum of Art

  • Participant Rachel Schade and student Akshay Malik present table ideas. Photo credit: Alison Miner, Philadelphia Museum of Art

  • PennMedicine's Carolyn Cannuscio and participant Kristen Brown present table ideas. Photo credit: Alison Miner, Philadelphia Museum of Art

PennPraxis tackles designing a more equitable Philadelphia

On February 22, 2016, PennPraxis, together with the Penn Institute for Urban Research (PennIUR) hosted a workshop in conjunction with the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s (PMA) exhibit featuring the work of Bruce Mau, entitled Work on What you Love. As one of the community partners for the exhibit, PennPraxis and PennIUR chose to focus the workshop—which used Bruce Mau’s 24 Hours to Massive Change approach—to encourage collaboration among Penn students and faculty to engage in a conversation around a theme relevant to many research fields and professions: equity.

In an evening workshop held at Penn’s Hall of Flags in Houston Hall, eighty participants from around Penn and the Philadelphia community came together to tackle the question: How Do We Design a More Equitable Philadelphia? The event began with Mau and his team setting the stage by sharing examples of solutions developed by the Massive Change methodology, and the Massive Change principles, such as "Design the Time of your Life," "Design What You Do To Tell Your Story,” “Break Through the Noise,” and “Design for the Impact Double Double.”

Next faculty members from PennDesign created the case for equity. Speakers included Dean and Paley Professor, Marilyn Jordan TaylorAnnette Fierro, Associate Professor of Architecture, and Karen M’Closkey, Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture. Together, Taylor, Fierroand M’Closkey spoke of challenges and solutions to equity in the city, including the education system, access to parks, open space, a healthy environment, and equal access to mobility at a multitude of scales—local, regional, global, and finally, human.

The final portion of the workshop asked ten interdisciplinary tables to devise imaginative and inspired solutions to engendering equity. Participants included Penn students, researchers, and faculty, and practitioners in the field of design, epidemiology, social work, arts, and education.

Solutions were presented as “paper points,” or presentations on paper, with each team sharing their big ideas. One group devised a program called Roots and Roofs, whereby we would increase green space and green roofs by training the incarcerated in green technology. A second conceived of City Party Planners, a program that would bring communities together through mobile “party” events focused on gathering narratives to match the improvement of community facilities with present needs. A group focused on education developed the Philadelphia Student Share, where the large population of a higher education students that come to Philadelphia would be paired with K-12 students to establish a new connection and bolster the local education system. Numerous other inspiring, out of the box ideas were presented to give attendees plenty to ponder at the event’s conclusion, and carry forward into research and practice.

At the close of the evening, PennPraxis Managing Director Julie Donofrio stated: "It was truly inspiring to see so many diverse minds, from many different perspectives, come together to discuss a common problem, and watching them discover overlapping priorities and solutions.  It definitely reinforces the notion that interdisciplinary collaboration is the best way to get people to think a little differently to develop solutions for community-wide impact. We hope to carry forth some of these ideas in future projects in the City of Philadelphia, and future curriculum and conversations at PennDesign."

PennPraxis and PennIUR were joined by sponsors Next City, Whole Foods Market, and CORE Water.

The event was covered by WHYY, PennCurrent, and Next City, the stories of which are available below:

WHYY Arts & Culture Desk (includes audio):

Next City