Press Room

PennDesign Social Impact Projects 2017

The Office of the Dean at PennDesign and PennPraxis, the community engagement and consulting arm of the School, are pleased to announce the 2017-2018 Social Impact Projects (SIP). Five student-led teams were chosen to receive awards up to $7,500 and mentorship to collaborate with communities locally and internationally to apply the skills and vision of PennDesign students to pressing or persistent needs. 

The five teams include students from all of PennDesign’s programs: Architecture, Landscape Architecture, City and Regional Planning, Historic Preservation, and Integrated Product Design, and touch on themes of international public health, preserving neighborhood histories, waste reduction, activating vacant/underutilized land, community greening, and affordable housing stabilization. Each project is focused on improving lives in communities near and far, as well as extending critical discourse and demonstrating the merits of cross-disciplinary collaboration. Projects will begin in the spring or fall of 2017, with the goal of being completed within one calendar year.

Selected Projects

SPROUTING POSSIBILITIES

Student Participants: Laura Carlson (MFA‘17), Muyang Sun (LARP‘17)

Faculty Advisors: Maria Villalobos, Lecturer in the Department of Landscape Architecture; Orkan Telhan, Assistant Professor of Fine Arts

Sprouting Possibilities is a collaborative project between students in fine arts and landscape architecture built on the shared vision of using trees to demonstrate the cyclical nature of growth and development to activate vacant land and strengthen communities. The team is working on two separate yet related sites in West Philadelphia to install temporary public art works and plant tree seedlings. The installations are intended to educate visitors about trees and contribute to community greening and skill sharing. The team is working with Urban Arboreta, the Enterprise Center CDC, and the Centennial Parkside CDC, as community partners.

BOTSWANA-UPENN PARTNERSHIP

Student Participants: Sarai Williams (MCP/MLA‘17), Zoe Axelrod (MCP/MLA‘18), Laura Colagrande (MArch‘18)

Faculty Advisors: Randy Mason, Associate Professor and Chair, Graduate Program in Historic Preservation; Ryan Littman-Quinn, Director of Mobile Health Informatics, Botswana-UPenn Partnership, Penn Medicine

The project emerges from a multi-year relationship of PennDesign and Penn Medicine through the Botswana-UPenn Partnership. In the summer of 2017, three PennDesign students will work in Botswana to conduct a human-centered design exercise with multiple nurses and healthcare auxiliaries who have been using Peek technology for school screenings in the Good Hope District of Botswana. The aim will be designing simple kits that encourage optimal, efficient, and sustainable use of technologies to promote preventive health care services. The project outputs will be designs and prototypes of an mHealth Kit that will support and optimize the national implementation of Peek Botswana.  Students will work with the staff and patients of the hospitals and clinics in Gaborone, Botswana.

BRIDGING THE PAST AND FUTURE

Student Participants:  Ashali Bhandari (MCP‘18); Joanna Joye (MCP‘18); MCP‘18, Rivka Weinstock (LARP‘18)

Faculty Advisors: Domenic Vitiello, Associate Professor and Assistant Chair, Department of City and Regional Planning

Students will work with elderly and youth (grades 6-7) residents of Brewerytown and Sharswood – two Philadelphia neighborhoods experiencing intensive development and public investment – to memorialize the neighborhoods’ histories and contextualize the forces that have shaped them. The group will work with the Brewerytown Sharswood Community Civic Association and a local middle school to create educational materials and initiate dialogue among residents to document the history of the neighborhood and educate youth about how they can be agents of positive change. The materials and oral histories will be featured in a public art exhibition designed by the PennDesign students with neighborhood representatives in the fall of 2017.

REFUNCTION JUNKTION

Student Participants: Phillip Chang (MIPD‘17); Clay Gruber (MArch/MLA‘18); Chelsea Meyers (MIPD‘18); Grace Moore (MIPD‘18); Jono Sanders (MSE/IPD‘17)

Faculty Advisors: Sarah Rottenberg, Lecturer and Associate Director, Integrated Product Design Program

The team will work with Philadelphia retailer and coffee shop United by Blue and local organizations focused on river development to design and build a parklet for Park(ing) Day 2017 (an annual national event to raise awareness of urban green spaces by converting parking spaces to temporary parks). The parklet will incorporate waste from local waterways and reclaimed materials. The project will highlight recycling and reuse at different scales through a design fabricated through upcycling and by making use of underutilized spaces to encourage visitors to reconsider their environments on a variety of levels. The team plans to install the parklet in front of United by Blue’s Walnut Street location, visible to thousands of Philadelphians who walk, bike, and drive by daily; the parklet has the potential to be installed at other Philadelphia events.

REBUILDING TOGETHER PHILADELPHIA: 

PENNDESIGN AND WHARTON COLLABORATION

Student Participants: Elizabeth Reynolds (MSHP ’18); Evan Oxland (MSHP ’17); Carolyn Zemanian (MSHP ’17)

Faculty Advisors: Randy Mason, Associate Professor and Chair, Graduate Program in Historic Preservation

In the spring of 2017, 400 volunteers, including PennDesign and Wharton students, will complete high-quality repairs in ten houses in a two-block radius in Mantua during a three-day period to improve homeowners’ quality of life and, in some cases, allow them to stay in their homes. The students and community members will replace old carpets, repair walls and floors, stabilize railings, and install safety equipment for the elderly and disabled, as well as gutters and basic weather stripping on exteriors.  The project aims to make a tangible impact and also raise awareness of issues facing affordable housing maintenance in Philadelphia and elsewhere. The project builds on a longstanding partnership between PennDesign, Wharton and Rebuilding Together Philadelphia, whose mission is to improve living conditions for low-income families living in Philadelphia.