THE CITY IN RECOVERY
Seeking a Just, Resilient, and Inclusive Future
This cross-disciplinary studio brings city planning and architecture students together to investigate the future of cities in the turbulent wake of the COVID-19 pandemic to best inform redevelopment proposals along the Delaware River Waterfront in Philadelphia. The pandemic has revealed and exacerbated long-standing divisions within cities, nations, and societies. The central question of this studio is: How will designers and planners engage with communities to create essential change while achieving resilience, inclusivity, and equitable access to resources?
Historically, the Delaware River Waterfront was a fixture of Philadelphia’s industrial and manufacturing economy. The construction of the Delaware Expressway in the 1970s led to the eventual abandonment and underutilization of the waterfront in the heart of Philadelphia. In 2009, the City established the Delaware River Waterfront Commission (DRWC) to create a new vision for a six-mile stretch along the river. The DRWC Master Plan, which was adopted by the Philadelphia City Planning Commission in 2011, seeks to incorporate the “informal, innovative, proud, relaxed, walkable, resilient, and vibrant” qualities of Philadelphia by creating “an authentic extension of the thriving city and vibrant neighborhoods.”
In Philadelphia and many other cities, the effects of COVID-19 have created disparate outcomes along socioeconomic and demographic lines. Communities of color are disproportionately impacted by infection and death because of deep-rooted public health inequities.
At the same time, these same communities were called upon to provide essential services on the frontline of the pandemic. Moreover, retail and hospitality workers’ livelihoods were upended, small businesses struggled to stay open, and public transit operations were pushed to the brink.
However, the pandemic has offered a once in a lifetime opportunity to reimagine the ways our cities look and function. Just and resilient cities of the future must plan for and provide the following:
Economic opportunity and access to good-paying jobs
Equitable and convenient access to high-quality public transit, public services, and public assets
Community-driven events and programming
The democratization of data and closing of the information gap
Vibrant public realm surrounded by a diverse mix of building uses and typologies
Access to basic services within a 15-minute walk
Access to enjoyable parks, open space, and recreation opportunities
The 2011 Master Plan has guided the decisions of the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation over the past decade. The goal of this studio is to reconsider certain parts of the master plan 10 years later, in pursuit of strengthening the commitment to the principles of a just and resilient recovery. The studio will identify new initiatives, strategies, and project proposals that can enhance diversity, equity, and inclusion in the waterfront communities as well as the adjacent inland neighborhoods.
Our proposals embody inclusivity by creating economic opportunity through establishing connections to nearby dense neighborhoods and the broader region. These plans serve as catalysts for future public and private investments that create a resilient and complete Delaware River Waterfront of the future. Finally, this studio develops transformative strategies to build equity in historically marginalized communities by creating frameworks for development that are connected to communities across the city, have vibrant public realms, and have space for local businesses to thrive. Ultimately, this studio envisions a revitalized waterfront designed for and accessible to all Philadelphians.
Elizabeth Wang, Yuncheng Wang, Amanda Xifaras