Posted August 25, 2017

Social Impact Project: Portal to the Parks

Established in the spring of 2015, Social Impact Projects are a key PennPraxis initiative. They are intended to foster more cross-disciplinary collaboration at PennDesign, encourage students to work within the community, and leverage students' design abilities to benefit communities in need. Student teams from the five disciplines at PennDesign work directly with community partners to determine the project scope, timeframe, and locations for installations that can augment ongoing community efforts. Led by five graduate students from the Integrated Product Design and Architecture programs, Portal to the Parks is a 2017 Social Impact Project launched for Park(ing) Day 2017 on September 15.

The team worked throughout the summer to design, build, and install a parklet to raise awareness of urban green spaces by converting parking spaces to temporary parks.The team is collaborated with the National Park Service (NPS) itself to highlight experiences that NPS offers in and around Philadelphia, from Independence Hall to the Germantown White House, to the Poe House, and to Valley Forge.  Installed in front of the Slought Foundation, at 4017 Walnut Street, the project was visible to thousands of Philadelphians who walk, bike, and drive daily, and encouraged people to seek out more park experiences and share their stories. 

The parklet is centered on a trailer, which the team has purchased and is building up from the inside out: they have framed the interior with a folding wall that will open, an inset screen for an interactive floor, and contour maps of Philadelphia and the United States. The project makes use of reclaimed materials and waste, utilizing upcycling to encourage visitors to reconsider their environments. Check out their construction progress in the video below.  

Interpretive rangers from the parks stopped by, while kiosks in the trailer showed digital content, including videos and photos.  The backdrop for the parklet included a landscape designed by multi-media artist Colleen Rudolf.  The greeter table asked visitors to post their stories and connect them to a map of park experiences.  

In the future, the team also hopes to use its Social Impact trailer to participate in other community events. Learn more about the project and their future plans on their team website.

The project was made possible through a generous gift from Mason Haupt, W'77.

Portal to the Parks - trailer construction progress