Historic public spaces - like parks and plazas, recreation centers and libraries – require forms of preservation that depart from standard practice, which typically emphasize what can be regulated and thereby focusing on physical materials. This studio developed more expansive preservation approaches appropriate for a set of dynamic civic assets, intended to encompass a diverse array of interconnected contemporary and heritage values, tangible and intangible.
The studio began by studying the evolution of Philadelphia’s system of civic assets; tracing intertwined social reform movements, charitable and philanthropic influence, and notions of the public good that continue to shape these places. Students then focused on a constellation of historic recreation centers and libraries in Southwest Philadelphia which were selected for a multi-million-dollar city reinvestment program, Rebuilding Community Infrastructure. The class studied Kingsessing Recreation Center and Library, Blanche A. Nixon/Cobbs Creek Library, and F.J. Myers Recreation Center, conducting historic and ethnographic research at each.
Students developed a toolkit designed to document and communicate the diverse cultural and social context and histories of these civic assets and the communities that make them whole, that their value and meaning might be better stewarded and sustained as each of these sites face major change.