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Meet Our Clients: Amy Hirsch of CLS

The former North Philadelphia Law Center of the Community Legal Services (CLS) had only a handful of offices with windows, desks in the hallway, a series of floods, and even a few electrical fires. The staff was "eager for a building better suited to our needs and more respectful to our clients," says Amy Hirsch, Managing Attorney of the Center.

Since the new Center opened in February, Amy observes, it has brought a new dimension to serving the community. "People come to us because they are in crisis... it's just been interesting to see how much impact being in a calmer, nicer space has had."

CLS was committed to staying in the neighborhood, which it has served since the '70s.  So everyone  rejoiced when CLS found a vacant lot nearby to develop near its aging facility in 2009. But the staff, long-accustomed to an inadequate, dim workplace, needed a framework for thinking beyond the basics.

CLS called on the Collaborative to help them envision the new Center. "The Collaborative was fabulously helpful to us," says Amy, "the design team spent a lot of time with the staff talking about what their needs were."  The result was a conceptual design for an accessible facility with an airy stairway and courtyard to let in more light.

Mindful of the workplace it wanted to create, CLS ultimately hired Atkin Olshin Schade Architects  to design the new facility, located near Broad and Erie.

Video interview by Liz Jacobs, Penn Urban Studies Program Intern. 


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