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Design Matters - August 2021


One of the hardest things over the last year and half has been feeling stuck in limbo. Whether it’s by the limited enclosure of your immediate space as many of us adjusted to working remotely, or by the newfound difficulty of making plans for the future. The pervasive uncertainty caused by the pandemic has changed the way we live and operate, possibly forever.  Many of our client organizations had to quickly pivot in response to immediate needs in their communities. We followed suit with the Design A.I.D. program to best support them in the unprecedented times.

During 2020, the Collaborative switched gears from our traditional Core Grant program to mobilize volunteers for nine organizations that needed immediate help in responding to urgent concerns caused by the pandemic.  This shift to services in demand and technical assistance allowed these nonprofits doing critical direct service to continue to operate at a time where many things were at a standstill.  

Last month we announced that we were settling in to our new normal and starting to ramp back up -onboarding our first new projects in 6 months!  The Collaborative team is working hard to get back to our quarterly application reviews and are excited to share that we will be reinstating Design Selection in Q3 and Q4 of 2021!  Let your friends, colleagues, and neighbors know that if they have an idea that could use design services, we are looking for projects and encouraging people to contact us about applying.  For more information on the projects completed in 2020, our 2020 Annual Report has details. 

Inspired by another great leader (Happy 60th Birthday Obama!), the theme of this season has been the audacity of hope. The Collaborative team has been busy planning for our future- which has been exciting, eye opening, and at times daunting. As a team we have had to be vulnerable and brave together and audaciously allow ourselves the space to dream a little. We send our support to our firm and nonprofit friends who may be starting to do similar. Together we can support each other through to the next phase. Our team will spend the summer gearing up for some big events this fall and hopefully will have opportunities to see some of you in person!  

“Hope-- In the face of difficulty. Hope in the face of uncertainty. The audacity of hope!...A belief that there are better days ahead.”– Barack Obama, 42nd President of the United States of America 

The Collaborative team used this uncertain time for self-reflection on our past three decades of design services.  The team has been wrestling with the big questions while setting goals for our future. Reminding ourselves that the best intended goals need solid plans has been a constant activity. To ensure that we remain our best to deliver exemplary services and opportunities to clients and volunteers, we are going to be working on ourselves for the rest of this year. Our organization will be embarking on a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) process and strategic planning, with each process designed to support the other. Together leadership and staff will be questioning ourselves and listening to the needs of our fellow Philadelphians to define new organizational goals around equity outcomes. We will also be determining strategic steps and actions to improve and increase our service offerings to ensure design is an available tool for sustainable change in local neighborhoods for all. 

We will continue to be inspired by our volunteers and clients who demonstrate daily the true meaning of dedication and be audacious in our efforts to set plans and achieve our goals!


Design Reviews Are Back! 

We are excited to announce that our Design Reviews are back!

All Core Grant projects have a peer review component, where an in-progress Core Grant team informally presents its work to Collaborative volunteer peer reviewers. Reviewers have the opportunity to provide feedback, learn about current projects, and meet other volunteers.

The next Design Review is Sep 21: Urban Creators: Life Do Grow Farm.

New Reviewers can complete a volunteer application. Once completed, you will receive information about all of our volunteer opportunities, including Core Grant review meetings. Being a reviewer does not require an official or minimum commitment; participate whenever you're available.


The Collaborative continues to build on its partnership with Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission, We have joined forces with AEC Cares Day to bring this day of purpose and service to the Mission.

Historically, before the AIA’s Conference on Architecture, construction industry professionals gather for AEC Care’s Day of Service. This event provides a positive impact on the host city’s community. This year, the Day will be held on September 22nd at Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission. The Collaborative volunteers will be implementing the volunteer design teams refresh of the extended living floor for their guests in residence. Come see what our volunteers have dreamed up in support of a great organization combating housing vulnerability in the city. Sign up to volunteer at


The Collaborative is proud to return as a partner in Park(ing) Day. Held this year on September 17th, the number of parks throughout Philadelphia will increase dramatically when activists, artists, architects, and other citizens transform metered parking spaces into temporary public parks. Known as PARK(ing) Day, this annual event re-imagines the possibilities of 160 square feet of public space. The event celebrates parks and other public spaces in cities across the country and raises awareness of the need for more pedestrian-friendly spaces in our urban areas. Teams can sign up to participate until August 30th at Come visit our installation with the Center for Architecture’s Architecture Design Education Program led by LRK at 12th and Arch Street on Park(ing) Day to say hi! 

Storefront Improvement Program Applications Are Available

The Storefront Improvement Program (SIP) application is now online. SIP helps businesses and property owners located within specific Philadelphia neighborhood shopping areas improve their storefronts. We have phased out the paper application and have created an online form to make it easier for applicants to apply for the program. 

The Collaborative is the design support of the program - providing reviews and consults to the program. 

More info about the SIP program, including details about who is eligible, a link to the application, and how the application process works can be found at

Watch this video about the Collaborative's work on the 5th Street Revitalization Project via SIP.


Welcome Corporate Champion McDonald Building

McDonald Building Co., a full-service construction management company, founded in 2010, has grown to 50 professionals. The firm offers services to assist clients through each stage of development from preconstruction and cost estimates to contract administration, project and construction management, site supervision, and Design-Builds.   

Read About McDonald Building Here

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Our Supporters Take a D- Tour at Overbrook Education Center

On July 26th, Impact Circle donors along with Corporate Champions and their guests met up with the Collaborative at the Overbrook Environmental Education Center located on the site of a former quarry in West Philadelphia.

Jerome Shabazz, the center’s founder and Executive Director, had a vision to create a space where youth could engage directly with and transform the environment. A former brownfield is now a lush, green community oasis that provides arts, literacy, nutrition, wellness, and environmental education programming for youth and their families.

Jerome provided the context of the site's industrial past and how OEEC took steady steps to clean up the brownfield and create a resource that contributes to community health and builds understanding of how actions impact the environment and its connection to health. 

He walked the group around the grounds to see all the greening that from planting street trees and fruit trees to creating a rain garden and installing green roofs. 

A gem of the Center is the elevated greenhouse. The Collaborative's donors met an OEEC staff farmer who took them inside to see not only what is growing tomatoes, collards, okra, peppers, and basil but hear about how the greenhouse contributes to the youth education programs.

The tour wrapped up on the newly acquired adjoining property.  There, OEEC has erected a second greenhouse and is planning additional raised beds, and a walking trail extension that provides opportunities for exercise, fresh air and quiet.  



Meet Erike DeVyra, long time very involved Collaborative volunteer. Erike is passionate about the effects of design on the enviorment and its impact on the community. Not only does Erike volunteer for us, is the manager for Philadelphia's Park(ing) Day.  We met with Erike to talk about women's roles in AEC, coming into her own professionally, and the homegown feel of Philadelphia.

Learn More About Erike Here.

Images of Park(ing) Days Past


Philadelphia is proud to have the largest Park(ing) Day in the country. Each year, Teams transform parking spaces with design and purpose, bringing the possibility of transformation to the public.

The Design Collaborative is proud to have participated in this event for over a decade with broad partnership to create spaces that were innovative, educational and engaging. In the past, we worked with:

Philly Urban Creators Life Do Grow(,
Philadelphia Water Department(,
Philadelphia Playful Learning Landscapes(,
Urban Jungle(,
McNaughton’s Garden(,
Revolution Recovery(, and many more.

We strive to bring joy to anyone's face as they participate or even just walk by our Parking spaces. Located in front of the Center for Architecture and Design we have hosted many different projects over the years. Climbing structures, fun interactive games, outdoor classrooms, science labs, and gardens have been displayed in the past. Take a look: 

Join us on September 17th for Park(ing) Day 2021!

Be sure to follow @parkingdayphila and @PhilaArchCenter on Instagram!

Become SEED Certified 

Friday, August 27th will be one of the last chances to become SEED AP Certified. 

Don't miss out on this opportunity to learn how to enhance your skills needed to proactively engage in community-based design.

The SEED Training and Certification webinar teaches design professionals how to address critical issues faced by the communities through proven methods and exemplary projects. The practices in this sector are unlike traditional roles in critical ways, and are an area of great potential for the future of the design professions. 

Click HERE to Register for the Certification.


  • Center For Architecture LAB: 9/15- 10/30 
  • Park(ing) Day: 9/17 
  • AEC Cares Day at Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission: 9/22 
  • Equity Talk #3: 9/27 
  • Design Philadelphia Panel/Fall Friendraiser: 10/9 
  • Design Philadelphia ADU Panel (AARP): 10/14 
  • AAO Conference – December 2-3 
  • ACD Conference – August 23-25  


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