As Americans navigate the pandemic and economic downturn, elected officials and activists alike have called for ambitious new public initiatives the likes of which we have not seen since the 1930s.
In response to COVID-19, cities all over the country have created small rental-assistance programs to keep the newly-unemployed from becoming homeless. A growing group of city officials—starting with Philadelphia, Atlanta, Cleveland, Baltimore, Oakland and Los Angeles—are working with the Housing Initiative at Penn, directed by Vincent Reina, assistant professor of city and regional planning, and Claudia Aiken to monitor their success and share best practices.
This summer, the Weitzman School partnered with the non-profit organization The Fresh Air Fund to launch a first-of-its-kind virtual design studio. Led by Design Fellows who were Weitzman students or recent graduates, Fresh Air Everywhere was an intensive seven-week program that introduced New York City high school students to the fields of art, design and architecture while fostering skills in imagination, drawing, modeling and communication.
PennPraxis has appointed three new members to its Board of Directors who will play a vital role in building the organization’s capacity for design action and thought leadership to advance inclusion, innovation, and impact in communities that design doesn't typically serve. All three new board members—Garlen Capita, senior urban designer at WRT Planning and Design, Kimberly Driggins, executive director of the Washington Housing Conservancy, and Patrick Morgan, first deputy commissioner for strategy and engagement at Philadelphia’s Department of Parks and Recreation—attended their first meeting of the Board in June.
As students and recent alums are confronted by uncertainties in the job market due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Weitzman School has expanded its professional development and career services initiatives, while taking them online. “It is critical, to me, that people stay engaged. There is so much that needs to be done, and this brain trust cannot be lost,” says Lucinda Sanders, the CEO of OLIN and an adjunct professor of landscape architecture.
PennPraxis, the consulting and community engagement arm of the Weitzman School, and the Weitzman School’s Graduate Program in Historic Preservation are working with Tuskegee University to build its preservation teaching capacity, produce original research, and conduct public outreach.
On Friday, August 28, as part of the Weitzman School’s New Student Orientation, teams of Design Fellows described the work they engaged in over the summer. One team of four Fellows worked under the leadership of Ellen Neises (MLA’02), adjunct associate professor of landscape architecture and executive director at PennPraxis, to re-imagine a former slate quarry as a heritage park linked to a growing trail system in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley.
On Friday, August 28, as part of the Weitzman School’s New Student Orientation, teams of PennPraxis Design Fellows described the work they engaged in over the summer. One team of seven Fellows, all students or recent graduates of the Department of City and Regional Planning, worked under the leadership of Vincent Reina, an assistant professor of city and regional planning and the faculty director for the Housing Initiative at Penn, also based at PennPraxis, on a multi-city housing planning project for Atlanta, Baltimore, Oakland, Los Angeles, Cleveland, and Philadelphia—six cities whose affordable and workforce housing was significantly affected by COVID-19.
A team of researchers under the leadership of Associate Professor Randall F. Mason is preparing to create a cultural landscape inventory at the Lincoln Memorial. It’s the latest in a series of cultural landscape projects commissioned from PennPraxis, the consulting and community engagement arm of the School, by the National Park Service in Washington, D.C.
Following a successful fundraising campaign, this summer, over 80 students and 30 faculty members representing almost every Weitzman program—including architecture, environmental building design, landscape architecture, city planning, urban spatial analytics, fine arts, preservation, and Integrated Product Design—and several labs are working on projects that are led by PennPraxis or led by faculty and supported by PennPraxis.
Housing affordability is a growing issue for Pennsylvanians, and renters, low-income households and minorities are disproportionately burdened by housing costs, according to a study shared online today by the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency. The Pennsylvania Comprehensive Housing Study, as it’s called, was co-authored by Vincent Reina, assistant professor of city and regional planning and faculty director of the Housing Initiative at Penn (HIP), HIP Director Claudia AIken, and city and regional planning students Jane Christen and Jason Schunkewitz, in collaboration with the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency.
Last spring, PennPraxis was hired by the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission to collaborate on the creation of a 25-year plan for the Lehigh Valley. A team of student and alum Design Fellows led by Ellen Neises, adjunct associate professor of landscape architecture and executive director of PennPraxis, produced a series of designs that would enhance the region’s ecological health and quality of life.