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In September we released a global call for entries to our Play Space Design Competition after identifying three sites—a school, a library, and a recreation center in Philadelphia. Forty interdisciplinary teams responded with innovative play space designs to fit the needs of the surrounding community. Five countries (United States, Canada, China, Germany, and Poland) and eleven US states (PA, CA, GA, IL, MA, MD, NJ, NY, OH, OR, and TX) were represented. In February a panel of expert jurors came together to review each submission and, collectively, chose three finalists, for each competition location.

21st Century Library, DMSJ
Campus of Play, Foldout Metropolis
Double Play, Michelle Crowley Landscape Architecture
Elevate, site design group, ltd.
Inclusive Pathways, Park-one
Infill Philadelphia, PLACE
Learning Landscape: A Watershed Learning and Play Experience, Casello Manica Yoon
Learning Landscapes: Cobbs Creek/Blanche A. Nixon, CBA
Neighborhood Playbook, Salt Design Studio | Finalist
Nixon Park, TSW | Finalist
Oh, the ways that you'll grow, Atrium Design Group
Play Structure | Story Stucture, Ground Reconsidered | Winner
Read Play Learn, KDA Architects
Storylines: A Neighborhood Hub for Knowledge, Culture, and Play, E&LP Associates
Wonderwoods, Streetsense

Community Gifts, Shift Landscape Architecture | Finalist
Community Loop, Arrowstreet
Didactic Play, Tawab Hlimi
InterPlay, Erdogan-Panzano
Playground for Radical Movement, Einwiller Kuehl Inc.
Reclaiming Recreation, Ramla Benaissa Architects, LLC | Finalist
Reclaiming Recreation: Waterloo Recreation Center, HOK
Renacimiento, T & M Associates
Squiggles, ONOFF
Waterloo Street Park, The OMNIA Group Architects
Waterloo Playspace, Streetsense
Waterloo Rebosante, Roofmeadow, Studio Ludo | Winner
Waterloo Recreation Center, KAMJZ
Waterloo Wildlands, Ithaca Play Collaborative

Bright Futures Chutes and Ladders, AOS, Meliora, Viridian | Winner
Co-Play at Haverford Bright Futures, Terry Guen Design Associates | Finalist
Cultivate, ALO
Embrace Past Present and Future, Studio of Instinct Fabrication | Finalist
Haverford Bright Futures, KAMJZ
Haverford Bright Futures Park, Rock-paper-scissors, BrownSprague LLC 
The Learning Eco-System, Resident Resolvers
Mill Creek Park, Om Creation Studio, LLC
Periscope ParkStreetsense
Play, Explore, Grow, A K Architecture, LLC
Recess Revisited, Carol A. Krawczyk, Landscape Architect, Inc.



Learning Landscapes

Blanche A. Nixon/Cobbs Creek Branch


21st Century Library

The library is a community space, a place for everyone to play – not just children. A library is a place where learning is fun. A library is a safe and welcoming space in the neighborhood. A library is the gateway to the world. This design brings the library out into the site, and creates places for learning and community and fun all around the building. It takes an institution founded nearly 100 years ago, and renews its commitment to the public through emphasis on the issues our communities face today. Accessibility, environmental stewardship, food scarcity, water conservation, education of the young and old and the rebuilding of community spirit are all key elements in the role of the 21st century library.

DERU Landscape Architecture | Cleveland, OH
Jayme Schwartzberg, Registered Landscape Architect
DPI | Cleveland, OH
Sagree Sharma, Urban Designer
Hiram College | Hiram, OH
Paul Gaffney
Debbie Kasper, Sociologist
Michelle Nario-Redmond, Social Psychology-Disability Studies Academic

CAMPUS OF PLAYJury Shout Out: Community Stewardship
Campus of Play

The original mission of the philanthropic Carnegie Libraries was to provide social and educational infrastructure for the American public in the early Twentieth Century. This project reflects on that mission, and updates the Cobbs Creek Library site plan to address contemporary issues of inclusivity, contextual specificity, and community needs. With an eye towards childhood learning and exploration, the design seizes the opportunity to add additional programming by introducing a playground, outdoor classroom, and reading gardens. With consideration for a low-maintenance landscape and the coherence of experience on the site, the design uses three (3) spatial devices: EDGE to corral space, TRACK to move people and water, and MAT to mark space for specific programming. The integration of contemporary programming and site planning strategies transform the current library into a community Campus of Play.

Kelsey Gallion, Early childhood educator/provider
Foldout Metropolis
Rebecca Braun, Intern Architect
Alexandra Chen, Intern Architect
MAde Studio | Ann Arbor, MI
María Arquero de Alarcón, Architectural Designer
Jen Maigret, Registered Architect

Double Play

DOUBLE PLAY at Blanch Nixon Library proposes a few simple moves to increase the playfulness and functionality of the surrounding landscape. Everything has a double purpose, multiplying the value of the space. ActivityTerraces: We dramatize the 10’ drop across the site to create play terraces and absorb storm water. Now the community has a great place to come together and play! Play Fences: Traditional playgrounds are enclosed by fences that send activity to the center and do not engage the city. We propose a double sided play fence that increases the play space on the interior and engages the city beyond. Public Art: Philadelphia has a strong tradition of public art that playfully engages the public. By engaging artists and the community, sculptures that bring identity to the site double as play equipment.

Caitlin O’Donnell, Teacher
Graham & Parks School | Cambridge, MA
Rose Levine, Early childhood educator/provider
Michelle Crowley Landscape Architecture | Boston, MA
Jessica Brown, Landscape Architectural Designer
Nicole Cary, Intern Landscape Architect
Naomi Cottrell, Landscape Architectural Designer
Michelle Crowley, Registered Landscape Architect
Ally Hangartner, Landscape Architectural Designer
Erin McCabe, Landscape Architectural Designer
OSD LLC | Lexington, MA
Sean Osborne, Civil Engineer
Morgan Palmer, Civil Engineer


Building off of the legacies of Andrew Carnegie and Blanche A. Nixon, Elevate seeks to create a compelling, sustainable, innovative, and inclusive community amenity that brings people together through a multidimensional play and gathering space. Elevate is defined by a high-density structure that stacks play and community programs on top of each other. The platforms vary in height, size, and program, creating unique, open, and exploratory spaces that activate the visitor’s imagination and blur the lines between distinctive programming, resulting in a one-of-a-kind, community-oriented playful and educational environment. Sustainable stormwater features and accessible community garden planters bring together visitors of all ages, while enhancing the community’s connection to nature. Elevate’s multi-level concept extends the mission of the library as a community center to the outdoors, with inclusive and flexible programming that attracts a multi-generational audience.

S.M.P. Group Design Associates, LLC | Chicago, IL
Jerry Pilipowicz, Civil Engineer
site design group, ltd. | Chicago, IL
Hana Ishikawa, Architectural Designer
Jenna Jones, Landscape Architectural Designer
Bradley McCauley, Registered Landscape Architect
Rob Reuland, Registered Landscape Architect
Yuki Takeshime, Architectural Designer
Despina Zouridis, Architectural Designer

Inclusive Pathways

Play spaces are generally designed to increase physical activity, socialization and imagination. Inclusive Pathways is a multigenerational park design concept that invites visitors to a unique environment, encouraging them to expand their learning. With a stronger emphasis on sensory development and social-emotional support, benefits to the community are fostered beyond predictable levels. Standard physical access considerations to outdoor community spaces are combined with considerations of the various neurological and emotional needs of people as they take new paths through the different stages of life. Inclusive Pathways creates opportunities for all to equally enjoy these spaces by creating stations for everyone, especially our most vulnerable citizens. The design's various pathways connect everyone regardless of their current place on these continuums. Inclusion of all is crucial to growth and well-being for all.

Modesto Bigas-Valedon, Registered Architect, Urban Designer
Marissa Post
Bittenbender Construction, LP | Philadelphia, PA
Galen Plona, Cost Estimator
Prudential Insurance Company of America | Philadelphia, PA
Julie Seda Agrait
Urban Engineers, Inc. | Philadelphia, PA
Daniel Humes, Civil Engineer

Infill Philadelphia

Most traditional playground designs incorporate prefabricated play equipment which provide limiting opportunities for imaginative play. A swing, a slide, a lookout point are some of the more basic components that make up traditional jungle gyms. What if you took the fundamental element that makes this place what it is and transform that element as the landscape language for play? 
Each book found within the walls of the Blanche A. Nixon Library are unique. They each have their own feeling, their own story, and their own place in the history of the written word. Books reflect individual personality and age appropriateness, they allow us to dive into other worlds and create imagery in our imaginations through the printed word. What if we opened the doors of the library and allowed the books to spill out into the landscape? The books themselves would become the landscape objects that allow for users to learn, play, and interact in a new way. The pages within could become the chairs, benches, slides, tunnels, walls, and performance stage that bring this community together on this unique parcel.

PLACE | Portland, OR
Paula Barreto, Landscape Architectural Designer
Miguel Camacho Serna, Landscape Architectural Designer
Jay Coro, Multimedia Artist
Laura Hartzell, Registered Landscape Architect
Jennifer Huang, Landscape Architectural Designer
Sterling Rung, Landscape Architectural Designer
Ryan Schuck, Intern Architect
Mauricio Villarreal, Registered Landscape Architect
Robin Wilcox, Registered Landscape Architect
Planned Parenthood | Portland, OR
Amanda McLaughlin, Early childhood educator/provider

Learning Landscape: A Watershed Play Experience

Throughout its history, the Cobbs Creek Library, Blanche A. Nixon Branch has been a place of learning and community building. While books and learning resources are stored within the walls of the library, our proposal extends the functions of the library to all corners of the site by providing further opportunities for three types of interactions where children can choose their own path of learning: Active: To acquire problem solving and teamwork skills, improve physical abilities and physical/mental well-being; Contemplative: To read, listen, view and reflect within a more controlled, calm environment; Exploratory: To engage in environmental observation and experimentation related to the Cobbs Creek watershed. Following in the tradition of the Cobbs Creek community, the focus of the proposal is on cooperative play and outdoor education where children and all users of the library can become stewards of their local and global communities.

Ontario, Canada
Valerie Manica, Intern Landscape Architect
Catherine Yoon, Landscape Architectural Designer
University of Waterloo | Ontario, Canada
Jeff Casello, Civil Engineer


The redesigned grounds of the Cobbs Creek Library, Blanche A. Nixon Branch bring the legacy of a Andrew Carnegie Library into the twenty-first century and unite the library’s mission with the activism personified by Blanche Nixon. Carnegie’s libraries were established to open up the world to the economically disadvantaged through books, and Blanche Nixon sought to give disadvantaged and alienated youth the opportunity to work together and contribute to their community. The library’s newly designed landscape will serve and educate people living in the densely urban and economically disadvantaged Cobbs Creek neighborhood by giving them the opportunity to experience and enjoy nature, providing the children with an inviting physical environment to challenge themselves mentally and physically, and creating a flexible outdoor community space that unites and serves the neighborhood. The design celebrates the nearby Cobbs Creek Corridor and demonstrates the interplay between community, nature, and sustainability.

Gail Fenton, Early Childcare Specialist
CBA Landscape Architects LLC | Cambridge, MA
Clara Batchelor, Registered Landscape Architect
Denis Chagnon, Registered Landscape Architect
Jessica Choi, Landscape Architectural Designer
Preston Holleman, Registered Landscape Architect
Aaron Kraemer, Landscape Architectural Designer
Samiotes Consultants, Inc. | Framingham, MA
Andy Truman, Civil Engineer

Neighborhood Playbook

The Neighborhood PlayBook offers a design strategy that integrates play and learning into outdoor civic space. It unearths the potential for the Blanche Nixon library branch to evolve into a flexible, shared public landscape that simultaneously gathers, protects and nurtures the members of the surrounding community. As a tactical Playbook, these strategies can be applied to similar urban sites with fundamental neighborhood institutions where play, civic engagement and multi-generational use are encouraged and activated through thoughtful, community-minded design.

CH2M HILL | Philadelphia, PA
Susan McDaniels, Environmental Engineer
City University of New York | New York, NY
Eleanor Luken, Early childhood educator/provider
Ian Smith Design Group | Philadelphia, PA
Ian Smith, Registered Architect
ITS ALL MADE UP | Philadelphia, PA
Perryne Lee Poy Lokhandwala, Play Planner
Kirk Fromm, design + illustration | Philadelphia, PA
Kirk Fromm, Renderer
PlayHarvest | New York, NY
Karyn Williams, Planner
SALT Design Studio | Philadelphia, PA
Andrew Jacobs, Landscape Architectural Designer
Sara Pevaroff Schuh, Registered Landscape Architect
Meghan Talarowski, Landscape Architectural Designer, Play Consultant
SS | Design Details | Philadelphia, PA
Sharon Stampfer, Architectural Designer, Artist

NIXON PARK | Finalist
Nixon Park

NIXON PARK is an urban oasis providing unique nature based play to improve physical health and wellbeing, providing playful, didactic park elements that make learning fun, and using green infrastructure to improve the quality of the environment. This is a transformational project, turning the park from a static greenspace with limited programming to an activity rich space with diverse opportunities for learning, playing, and greening. The landscape is the common element and framework that connects each layer or curriculum within the park. The park is organized as a series of linked flexible outdoor rooms that can function as individual activity spaces, group activity spaces, or be used as a series of progressive outdoor classrooms. Each room includes unique interactive elements and themed landscape based on the curriculums that interpret literature, natural processes, and geology offering children the opportunity to connect with nature with their full range of senses.

TSW | Atlanta, GA
Bryan Bays, Registered Landscape Architect
Kristin L’Esperance, Registered Landscape Architect
Sarah McColley, Planner
Nick Panetta, Landscape Architectural Designer
Peyton Peterson, Landscape Architectural Designer
Kaitlin Vaughn, Landscape Architectural Designer

Oh, The Ways That You'll Grow

Children are adept at playing most joyfully with that which is not designed for play. As an extension, play spaces are at their best when they offer themselves naturally to “children” of all ages to appropriate, define and reinterpret. If the traditional playground of today is one with installed factory-made equipment – swings, slides, see-saws, jungle gyms – we venture to break the mold by returning to an even older model: one where children play in and with a rich “found” environment – grade transitions, incidental niches and recesses, breaks in material patterns, observable links in natural processes - appropriating, defining and reinterpreting elements of it, while in turn developing their own powers of perception, imagination and bodily strength. Meanwhile, the multiple scales of spatial configurations within the design invite use by all age groups of the community, to each in their own way.

Kyrie Yaccarino, Landscape Architect, Intern
Atrium Design Group | Philadelphia, PA
Theodore Bazil, Architectural Designer
Evan Litvin, Intern Architect
Snezana Litvinovic, Registered Architect
Nurit Nachum, Architectural Designer
Colby Rosenwald, Architectural Designer
Shimi Zakin, Architectural Designer

Play Structure | Story Structure

The library is an “instrument of change”, with knowledge extending beyond the building. Our book sculpture soars out of the windows and into the landscape becoming a quiet reading garden on the south side of the site. On the north side of the site, the book opens up to reveal its narrative structure in a creative, physically challenging, but safe play environment. Inspired by children’s descriptions of their own playground designs, the play loop moves through a narrative structure with equipment representing the introduction, rising action, climax, falling action and resolution. This along with the stormwater garden can be used as education opportunities within the landscape. The entry is designed for every user of the site, providing both an accessible ramp and an outdoor venue to host library programs. Our design provides a beautiful and useful landscape that will become an iconic destination within the neighborhood.

Designed For Fun | Warminster, PA
Brett Haddaway, Playground Equipment Supplier
Friends Select School | Philadelphia, PA
Deborah Rickards, Teacher
Ground Reconsidered Landscape Architecture | Philadelphia, PA
Brittany Adams, Landscape Architectural Designer
Zach Barker, Landscape Architectural Designer
Julie Bush, Registered Landscape Architect
Jim Durkin, Landscape Architectural Designer
Tamara Henry, Landscape Architectural Designer
Christina McCallum, Landscape Architectural Designer
Julie Skierski, Registered Landscape Architect
J R Keller LLC Creative Partnerships | Philadelphia, PA
James Keller, Registered Architect
Meliora Environmental Design LLC | Philadelphia, PA
Michele Adams, Civil Engineer
Altje Hoekstra, Civil Engineer, Environmental Science and Policy
The Parent-Infant Center | Philadelphia, PA
Jacob Kerner, Early childhood educator/provider

Read Play Learn

We designed a play and garden space that encourages imagination and learning. Taking into account the rich history of the library, as well as the multi-generational neighborhood of Cobbs Creek, our design will continue engaging residents for generations. We hope that the renovation will inspire others to remember and reflect on the importance of play, learning and community engagement. We believe that play empowers children of all ages to develop imperative cognitive skills, build positive relationships and further emotional well being. In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “It’s a happy talent to know how to play.”

Berwyn Center | Philadelphia, PA
Michelle Lambert, Nonprofit Management
Children’s Crisis Treatment Center | Philadelphia, PA
Helene Bechtel, Social Work
KDA Architects | Voorhees, NJ
Robert Avellino, Intern Architect
Danielle Magnotta, Intern Architect


Over the past 20 years, the role of libraries has changed dramatically. With the growing importance of technology in our everyday lives, libraries have taken on the critical role of community technology centers. Our design seeks to re-establish the library as a valued community hub by activating its outdoor spaces with playful amenities that stimulate discovery, literacy and community pride. The structure of our reimagined space is defined by three “storylines” or thematic paths that narrate interesting and positive stories about the Cobbs Creek neighborhood. The themes explored include: Local history, Changing technology, and The ecology of the Cobbs Creek watershed. These stories are told through the materials in the landscape and employ both signage and augmented reality to engage users and promote literacy. The Storylines define the boundaries of several distinct flexible spaces, which can accommodate simultaneous user groups in a variety of activities. The central feature of the space is a series of playful, interactive sculptures that evoke Cobbs Creek’s history of mill-driven power.

Teresa Foster Confair, Early childhood educator/provider
Engineering & Land Planning (E&LP) | Clinton, NJ
Edward Confair, Registered Landscape Architect, Civil Engineer
Wayne Ingram, Civil Engineer, Planner
LandHealth Institute | Philadelphia, PA
Rachael Griffith, Registered Landscape Architect
Over the Rainbow Nursery, Inc. | Montclair, NJ
Lorraine Confair, Early childhood educator/provider


Wonderwoods is a whimsical-meets-natural outdoor playspace at Cobbs Creek Library, incorporating iconic elements from classic children’s stories in a dynamic physical environment with a mix of programmed spaces, natural features, and physical obstacles. Wonderwoods activates a childlike curiosity and inspires a sense of discovery in its users – from young children to seniors – inviting them to play, learn, and connect in a fluid, flexible setting.

Streetsense | Bethesda, MD
Vianka Aloras, Architectural Designer
Megan Capo, Architectural Designer
Leah Casnocha, Engagement Strategist
Colin Greene, Planner
Herb Heiserman, Registered Architect
Sydney Luken, Architectural Designer
Andrew Metzler, Architectural Designer
Brian Miller, Architectural Designer
Alexi New, Creative Strategist



Reclaiming Recreation

Waterloo Recreation Center


Community Gifts

Community Gifts’ is based on educator Friedrich Freobel’s idea of ‘Gifts’. The site design is representative of a variety of ‘Gifts’ organized as bands which together create a single whole. These are gifts that the community gives to itself and as such treats and cares for them as important assets. In this way Waterloo Recreation Center will provide play opportunities for an entire community, together or separated by age, program or desire. Importantly the concept opens the space up to the streetedge(s) and creates multiple, inviting thresholds and entrances. Bioswales, a rain garden and the ‘Discovery Forest’ introduce much needed green infrastructure and provide habitat for birds, butterflies and insects while educating about urban ecology and the natural environment. More then just play spaces, ‘Community Gifts’ creates a healthy, 21st century urban environment that will draw the neighborhood together and serve as the central focus and hub of activity for this multi-generational community.

James Wick, Grade School Teacher
Shift Landscape Architecture | Guelph, Ontario, Canada
Michael Barker, Registered Landscape Architect

COMMUNITY LOOPJury Shout Out: Central Green
Community Loop

As our cities evolve over time, so do the many smaller neighborhoods within them. Shared public spaces often reflect the dynamic forces at play in these neighborhoods, and when successful, act as both resources and rallying points for the local community. Questions of community engagement, perceived safety, multi-aged play, and mixed-use program became the basis for the new urban intervention at Waterloo Recreation Center. By starting with the local community and end-users in mind, Community Loop aims to show how play and thoughtful design can be a catalyst for positive urban change.

Arrowstreet | Boston, MA
Matt Byrnes-Jacobsen, Registered Architect
Annie DiBella, Intern Architect
Lee Robert, Intern Architect
Hector Torres, Intern Architect
Stephen Zuber, Intern Architect
Copley Wolff | Boston, MA
Andrew Arbaugh, Landscape Architectural Designer
Becky Rupel, Registered Landscape Architect
Mission Hill School | Boston, MA
Ashleigh L’Heureux, Early childhood educator/provider

Didactic Play

The combined forces of ethnic tension, deindustrialization, suburbanization, disinvestment and decline have disrupted the urban fabric of the Lower North district of Philadelphia resulting in the characteristic patchwork of rowhouses, vacant lots, and successional wilderness. Capitalizing on the availability of urban land, the city of Philadelphia has taken on the ambitious goal of reducing stormwater runoff by 85% through the medium of green or landscape infrastructure, in what is called the Green City Clean Waters Plan. As a syncretic medium bridging between natural and cultural systems, green infrastructure can serve as the foundation for didactic landscapes, instilling environmental literacy through nature play. Located in the American Street Empowerment Zone, a hot spot in urban vacancy, this design proposal positions the Waterloo Recreation Center as a model for urban regeneration grounded in green infrastructure as didactic play space.

State College, PA
Andrew Chiang, Civil Engineer
Richard Conte Jr., Landscape Architectural Designer
Tawab Hlimi, Landscape Architectural Designer
Derek Kalp, Registered Landscape Architect
Xinxin Li, Landscape Architectural Designer
Anahita Shadkam, Architectural Designer
Nicole Wagy, Landscape Architectural Designer


InterPlay is a place of connection. InterPlay interacts the community with kids. The project amplifies the purpose of existing community amenities on the site by interweaving specific play spaces. Interplay also connects community and education gardens. Key spaces are designed for dual-use – enabling them to facilitate both play and social gathering for the neighborhood. InterPlay creates a big backyard for Norris Square and breaks the Waterloo Recreation Center out of its interior “block-lock.” The design enhances exposure by interlacing the diverse site axes, inviting the community into the re-activated grounds through new, celebrated “Golden Gate” entries. InterPlay connects the familiar with the new. Murals by local artists adorn the walls of key play areas. Play structures emerge from these surfaces, linking the visual to the spatial fields. Echoing the resilience of the community, building components are reclaimed in new ways, defining the character of InterPlay’s spaces.

Paula Forney, Pediatric Physical Therapist
Harvard Graduate School of Education | Boston, MA
Daniel Wilson, Professor of Early Childhood Education
Rogers Partners | New York City, NY
Tyler Swanson, Registered Landscape Architect
Springboard Schools | Arlington, MA
Nicole Lowery, Early childhood educator/provider
studioPM | Arlington, MA
Megan Panzano, Architectural Designer, Architecture Instructor
Temple University, Tyler School of Art | Philadelphia, PA
Seher Erdogan Ford, Registered Architect

Playground for Radical Movement

Movement is fundamental to the health of people and water. The new Waterloo playground trails and spatial design provide opportunities for moving while being wet, dry, fast, slow, hot, cool, up, down, alone, and together. The playground invites improvisation by the user. Instead of a play area design with strict limits on intended users and uses, this new playground inspires discovery and allows freedom for different ages in one place. A few limits are set for safety, but the potential to imagine is paramount. The use has been extended into night by using lighting as a significant element in the design—powered by the movement of kids and adults who store energy during the day. Opportunities to dance, walk, exercise, and play in the post work pre bed hours of twilight could radically reconnect working families with this space and each other.

Einwiller Kuehl Inc. | Oakland, CA
Jenika Florence, Landscape Architectural Designer
Kuan Gao, Landscape Architectural Designer
Whitney Hannah, Landscape Architectural Designer
Sarah Kuehl, Registered Landscape Architect

Reclaiming Recreation

The Waterloo Recreation Center, a small courtyard-like park bracketed by buildings, is typical of many Philadelphia neighborhoods. In 2015 a community reclaimed the abandoned space and demonstrated its resilience in a remarkable way. The turnaround was not the outcome of a City action, but that of a community-based organization capable of gathering a neighborhood around a project. Building upon this community engagement, this project takes a holistic approach, social, cultural, and ecological, to define a new form of neighborhood park. Issues children face when playing, learning and growing in challenged urban settings are revisited in order to propose a versatile environment, geared towards natural learning and innovative play. Reclaiming is key, but not only and not a previous state. In our case, reclaiming means resurrecting the Waterloo Recreation Center into a sustainable, dynamic system, attuned to seasonal changes and societal transformations.

Elywn | Philadelphia, PA
Tia Zirkle, Occupational Therapist
Maser Consulting P.A. | Mt. Laurel, NJ
Gerald DeFelicis, Registered Landscape Architect
Ramla Benaissa Architects, LLC | Philadelphia, PA
Ramla Benaissa, Registered Architect
Jesse Rabinowitz, Intern Architect
Robert Shamble, Registered Architect
Erik Tsurumaki, Intern Architect

Reclaiming Recreation: Waterloo Recreation Center

The fight to take back Waterloo Park has been an ongoing struggle for the community of Norris Square for almost 20 years. With the help of the local community, Waterloo Park can be a safe, inviting, and enjoyable space for everyone. We believe that by giving the public a reason to use the park on a regular basis, the park and the community will grow closer and thrive. Rather than overhauling the entire space, we believe that simple changes can make a large impact. We also believe that parks are essential to a community’s well-being. Our goal for this project is to bring the surrounding community back into the park and maximize the impact nature has on their mental and physical health.

HOK | Philadelphia, PA
Marisa Caban, Intern Architect
Alyssa Horn, Interior Designer
Andrea Marzolf, Architectural Designer
KS Engineers, PC | Philadelphia, PA
Sean Marzolf, Civil Engineer


Public space is one of the keys to successful reinvestment in the community. Utilizing the current positive momentum of the surrounding neighborhood, Renacimiento aims to develop a public space that is educational, practical, innovative, and enjoyable for everyone. It will be a model for the future of open space development in the city of Philadelphia. Much like the life cycle of the butterfly, Waterloo Recreation Center will transform and take flight.

John Shandra, Registered Landscape Architect
Doug Shannon, Graphic Designer, Mural Artist
Derck & Edson Associates | Lancaster, PA
Steve Hackett, Landscape Architectural Designer
Esperanza Academy Charter High School | Philadelphia, PA
Pete Bruno, Teacher
Fahringer, McCarty, Grey, Inc. | Pittsburgh, PA
Daniel Harold, Landscape Architectural Designer
Hydraterra Professionals | Brandywine Township, PA
James Bulicki, Civil Engineer
Live Green Landscapes | Owings Mills, MD
Michael Wright, Landscape Architectural Designer
Penn State Cooperative Extension | Philadelphia, PA
Tommy McCann, Educator/MLA
T & M Associates | Middletown, NJ
Daniel Jones, Registered Landscape Architect
Thomas Lauro, Landscape Architectural Designer


We envision the future Waterloo Playground taken over by “Squiggles”. The squiggle is a simple shape that is easy to build and acts as a generator for an infinite amount of games and objects. Collectively, the squiggles are based on a kit of parts at an urban scale which are designed, built and utilized by the local children and their adults. In this way, the squiggle reconfigures Waterloo Playground as an open work; one that acts as a framework to enable a direct relationship between the local community and their urban environment. Having built the project with their own hands, the community has a sense of the Waterloo playground as a space over which they exercise collective ownership and control. Squiggles imagines the users of Waterloo Playground not merely as reactively resilient to hardship, but as empowered actors capable of controlling the production of their urban environment.

ONOFF | Berlin, Germany
Berk Asal, Industrial Designer
Samuel Dias Carvalho, Registered Architect
Dan Dorocic, Registered Architect
Michael Maguinness, Architectural Designer

Waterloo Street Park

“Today’s typical playgrounds are maintenance-free caged areas that emphasize safety more than critical thinking.” - Susan G. Solomon. A unique park designed away from modularity. Creating spaces that engages the mind without knowing what aspect is being engaged. Allows for more contemplative play. Elements of the park were broken up, designed for multiple ages to all feel comfortable in a park. The park is then connected by a single, meandering “Golden path” That is designed to connect one to each element designed on site. This gold concept was taken from the community embracing of the existing “Golden gates.” Our goal was to create a hub that brings the community together while offering a diversity of spaces and play, all connected by one, single, golden path.

The OMNIA Group Architects | Hatboro, PA
Eugene Grimaldi, Registered Architect
Nick Grimaldi, Intern Architect
Joseph Hentz, Architectural Designer

Waterloo Playspace

The Waterloo Recreation Center, nestled within a city block in Norris Square, Philadelphia, is a community space that represents the ebbs and flows of stability within the neighborhood. Our vision for the space chooses to honor and celebrate the community and its committees, whose stewardship and tenacity reflect the deep-seated resilience within its people. This play and public space hopes to capture this resiliency and empower families through education, play and arts. In doing so, we aim to foster a place of connection, embody a cultural fingerprint, and establish an avenue for growth for the community of Norris Square.

Streetsense | Bethesda, MD
Jessica Alvarenga, Graphic Designer
PJ Bautista, Intern Architect
Jonathan Brockett, Architectural Designer
Beth Crichton, Graphic Designer
Garrett Geraci, Registered Architect
Herb Heiserman, Registered Architect
Annie Masincupp, Interior Designer
Kelley Milloy, Real Estate/Economic Development
Vanessa Rai, Intern Architect
Hugo Rodrigues, Architectural Designer

Waterloo Rebosante

Waterloo está REBOSANTE de actividad, REBOSANTE de vida, REBOSANTE de alegría. Waterloo is bustling with activity, brimming with life, overflowing with joy. We believe that the energy of the Norris Square community is the reason that the Waterloo Recreation Center exists today. Given its history, nothing is more important than the care, devotion and life that neighbors have already infused into this place. As we re-imagine the future design of Waterloo, we seek both to honor and support the people who are its heart and soul and to create lasting connections with nature and play. During our design process, five elements inspired us: community, play, water, nature and re-use. By weaving together the diverse rhythms and energy of each, we created a place that celebrates the community of which it is an integral part.

Roofmeadow | Philadelphia, PA
Daniel Berger, Intern Landscape Architect
Kate Farquhar, Landscape Architectural Designer
Laura Hansplant, Registered Landscape Architect
Charles Miller, Civil Engineer
Melissa Muroff, Lawyer
Andrew Pirie, Registered Landscape Architect
Jane Winkel, Landscape Architectural Designer
Space for Childhood | Philadelphia, PA
Eileen Kupersmith, Early childhood educator/provider
Studio Ludo | Philadelphia, PA
Meghan Talarowski, Landscape Architectural Designer, Play Consultant

Waterloo Recreation Center

The aim of the design is to re-think the urban environment and existing activities present in the district. This social project demonstrates that a mix of innovative sustainable ideas related to sport areas and playgrounds can change the way we power entire communities. The focus is on converting the energy of people in different ages in a positive way which as a bi-product would increase for example the safety in the area. By giving a possibility to have a sense of belonging to a group from the early years young people, who without providing attractive after-school activities might feel lost, would not look for alternative (sometimes criminal) ways of binding with the neighbourhood community or district. The project seeks to contribute to this dialogue by exploring how architecture and design can help people from different ethnical groups equally imagine changes in community relations so that lives would not be marked by violence acts as the recent ones covered by the media. The proposed intervention on the site could be also a catalyst for the economic repair of the community by allocating public spaces and facilities such as,cafes, shops around it.

KAMJZ | Warsaw, Poland
Nicoló Bianchino, Intern Architect
Jan Gronkiewicz, Architectural Designer
Su Hyun Kim, Intern Architect
Riza Kori, Intern Architect
Ewa Kuryłowicz, Registered Architect
Michał Polak, Architectural Designer
Daniel Radlinski, Intern Architect
Łukasz Wenclewski, Registered Architect
Maciej Zawadzki, Architectural Designer

WATERLOO WILDLANDSJury Shout Out: Seasonal Variation
Waterloo Wildlands

We are thrilled to help Waterloo Recreation Center “take it to the next level” by bringing in nature, transforming vacant lots, and offering space and materials for adventurous child-directed play. Our design mixes exciting play equipment, an updated spray pad, new court sport options, and a thoughtful storm water plan with an amazing amount of natural elements for all ages to enjoy. Rising topography and hills. Woodland areas. Fascinating plantings. Play orchards. Sand and water play. Gathering nooks. Loose parts play. Music and dance. Shady spots. Community gardens. A fort-building, dirt-digging adventure playground. All this on one site—plus empowering Waterloo to become an adventure play and playwork hub in the community by teaming up with other rec centers, parks, and schools to raise the whole neighborhood to the next level of children’s play and connections to nature.

Genki Takahashi, Intern Landscape Architect
Ryosuke Takahashi, Landscape Architectural Designer
Katherine Woellner, Planner
Cornell University | Ithaca, NY
Daniel Lambert, Landscape Architectural Designer
Peter Trowbridge, Registered Landscape Architect
earthplay | Ithaca, NY
Rusty Keeler, Nature Play Designer
Ithaca Children’s Garden | Ithaca, NY
Alex Cote, Garden Play Programs Coordinator



Reviving Recess

Haverford Bright Futures


Bright Futures Chutes and Ladders

Our scheme is inspired by the classic children’s board game: Chutes & Ladders. The board game is brought to life in three dimensions with the construction of two large scale “ladders” that act as shading devices, and with a lushly planted “chute” that represents the long buried Mill Creek. It connects the front and rear of the site while dividing the play space into public and private zones. A trike track parallels the chute and includes a closed circuit for younger children. The board game is realized on a smaller scale with landing spaces represented by eight outdoor playrooms – each with a different ground surface and unique play theme. Smaller chutes and ladders throughout the site reinforce the theme. Rain water is managed in multiple ways and is incorporated into active play in The Laboratory and The Studio. Shade trees define outdoor classrooms and rich plantings support rain gardens.

Atkin Olshin Schade Architects | Philadelphia, PA
Jill McCoach, Graphic Designer
Sara Patrick, Registered Architect
Michael Schade, Registered Architect
International Consultants, Inc. | Philadelphia, PA
Michael Funk, Cost Estimator
Meliora Environmental Design LLC | Philadelphia, PA
Michele Adams, Civil Engineer
Chelsea Fitzpatrick, Civil Engineer
The Parent-Infant Center | Philadelphia, PA
Tamara Clark, Early childhood educator/provider
Viridian Landscape Studio | Philadelphia, PA
Zachary Cebenka, Intern Landscape Architect
Tavis Dockwiller, Registered Landscape Architect
Suzanna Fabry, Landscape Architectural Designer

Co-Play at Haverford Bright Futures

The team’s concept for Haverford Bright Futures revives recess and creates new opportunities for community engagement by developing a landscape of “Co-Play.” The design for Co-Play at Haverford Bright Futures uses four co-principles to organize and transform the site into an asset for the students, teachers, and neighborhood residents. These four principles—Co-motion, Co-habitat, Co-curricular, and Co-mmunity—inform the design of play and learning spaces and provide a structure to trace the historic flow pattern of Mill Creek across the site. This design model reconfigures the landscape into a place where nature is accessible and play is fun, but also valued as a learning and teaching tool for young students. The site’s increased accessibility also allows the neighborhood to share the space as a communal benefit. As a result, the students are able to learn from playing, new curricular landscape interactions, and their integration with community residents.

CityPlay | Philadelphia, PA
Anna Forrester, Landscape Architectural Designer
Philly Art Center | Philadelphia, PA
Janine Parkinson, Teacher
Roots First | Winston Salem, NC
Kristen Haff, Registered Landscape Architect
Terry Guen Design Associates | Chicago, IL
Benjamin Cole, Landscape Architectural Designer
Laura DeMink, Registered Landscape Architect
Aaron C. Elswick, Landscape Architectural Designer
Guanyi Gao, Landscape Architectural Designer
Terry Guen, Registered Landscape Architect
Christina Harris, Landscape Architectural Designer
Bridgette Moen, Landscape Architectural Designer

CULTIVATEJury Shout Out: Makerspace

Incorporation of the creek into the sewer system and construction without consideration of a larger watershed process has resulted in environmental, economic and social issues in Mill Creek. Given the historic issues faced in the neighborhood, our design proposal aims to cultivate a new landscape using stormwater management as a design element. Not only can stormwater management prevent further adverse effects to the region, such as sinking grounds and shifting foundations, but can be used to define a landscape that harmonizes the need for private education and play spaces with the needs for a publicly accessible community use of the site.

Abiola Sagbohan, Registered Architect
ALO | Houston, TX
Kunkook Bae, Landscape Architectural Designer
Sungjoon Chae, Architectural Designer

Embrace Past Present and Future

As one of many ambitious programs brought by Bright Futures Programs, Haverford Bright Futures is not only preparing a thrilling picture for both the Pre-K School and the neighborhood of Mill Creek, but also has offered us, as a design team, a number of great opportunities with challenges of delivering one comprehensive design solution to reconcile varieties of pre-school kids, community, and what has been given on the site. Our design approach is to establish a coherent physical hybrid that embraces local history(the past-presence of the Creek), district culture(African American dominated population), human nature(to have fun) and site identity(grassland). More importantly, we envision all these being implemented with low-impact design in a timely manner. It will set a new kind of play space prototype with flexible scales and programs involving kids, community and ecological technologies

Red Sun Kindergarten | Beijing, China
Hong Qi, Early childhood educator/provider
Studio of Instinct Fabrication | Beijing, China
Chungpo Fang, Registered Landscape Architect
Fan Gao, Intern Landscape Architect
Wei Guo, Planner
Ying Lou, Landscape Architectural Designer
Eason Sui, Urban Designer

Haverford Bright Futures

The aim of the design is to re-think the urban environment and existing activities present in the district. This social project demonstrates that a mix of innovative sustainable ideas related to sport areas and playgrounds can change the way we power entire communities. The focus is on converting the energy of people in different ages in a positive way which as a bi-product would increase for example the safety in the area. By giving a possibility to have a sense of belonging to a group from the early years young people, who without providing attractive after-school activities might feel lost, would not look for alternative (sometimes criminal) ways of binding with the neighbourhood community or district. The project seeks to contribute to this dialogue by exploring how architecture and design can help people from different ethnical groups equally imagine changes in community relations so that lives would not be marked by violence acts as the recent ones covered by the media. The proposed intervention on the site could be also a catalyst for the economic repair of the community by allocating public spaces and facilities such as, cafes, shops around it.

KAMJZ | Warsaw, Poland
Nicoló Bianchino, Intern Architect
Jan Gronkiewicz, Architectural Designer
Su Hyun Kim, Intern Architect
Riza Kori, Intern Architect
Ewa Kuryłowicz, Registered Architect
Michał Polak, Architectural Designer
Daniel Radlinski, Intern Architect
Łukasz Wenclewski, Registered Architect
Maciej Zawadzki, Architectural Designer

Haverford Bright Futures Park

On a damp October weekend we were struck by the vast landscape of both the school and the neighborhood. A lot could happen here, it is a blank slate. While the size of school property was impressive we were also draw to the residual space between the crescent style neighborhoods that abut the school to the West. We believe that our little playground could be opportunistic, it could help include the neighborhood by incorporating its unclaimed open space into the composition, blurring boundaries and introducing new opportunities for sharing and enjoying this little patch of urban green. Our playground proposal is ambitious, it attempts to suggest a gentle park that once was a school yard.

Joe Boruchow, Graphic Designer
BrownSprague LLC | Philadelphia, PA
Peter Brown, Registered Architect
Barbara Sprague, Registered Architect
CVM | Philadelphia, PA
Christopher Boccella, Construction Manager
Lamba Associates | Doylestown, PA
Baldev Lamba, Registered Landscape Architect
Temple University | Philadelphia, PA
Brenna Hassinger-Das, Educational Researcher

The Learning Eco-System

Our team's project is to incorporate multiple learning modules onto the site of Haverford Bright Futures, using a sustainable approach such as transforming used shipping containers to house educational activities. Our strategy to reduce storm water run-off is to introduce exterior piping to capture and transport rainwater. Another one of our design aspects is a central play area that lies on a beautiful blue porous paving to further reduce storm water run-off.

Michael Williams
Hill International, Inc. | Philadelphia, PA
Lance Rothstein, Registered Architect
Bryan Thomas, Cost Estimator

Mill Creek Park

Mill Creek Park will re-envision recreation for the surrounding community, while reflecting its fluvial history. What was once a natural stream, Mill Creek was rerouted into a 19th century sewer system. Currently, this sewer system bisects the site. To relate this infrastructure with the community, the design uses its elegant arc as an organizing element. To its west, topography slopes up to provide community play on one side of the ridge, while delineating the preschool garden on the building side. At the top of this ridge, the interpretive walk provides an elevated educational experience with its inscribed panels above. These highly programmed spaces are complemented to the east by community garden plots and flexible lawns in a park-like setting, serving as spaces for performance, markets, and classes to further engage the community. By combining children’s natural play and community amenities, Mill Creek Park will quickly become a community focal point.

Om Creation Studio, LLC | State College, PA
Hope Hui Rising, Registered Landscape Architect
Penn State Dept. of Architecture & Landscape Architecture | State College, PA
Yi Xiao Fu, Intern Landscape Architect
Jessica Owens, Intern Landscape Architect
Jacqueline Schaeffer, Intern Landscape Architect

PERISCOPE PARK Jury Shout Out: Iconic Placemaking
Periscope Park

Periscope Park reimagines the underutilized community gathering space at Haverford Bright Futures as a metaphorical journey that connects the history of the Mill Creek neighborhood to its young (and young-at-heart) residents. The playspace mirrors the function of a periscope - a tool that enables an observer to see things that are otherwise out of sight - by extending the functionality and visibility of the site’s buried creek via a ground-level rain garden, visible water play elements, and semi-circular play structures. Take a peek!

Streetsense | Bethesda, MD
Bobby Boone, Planner
Eric Burka, Graphic Designer
Alexander Crawford, Registered Architect
John DeNapoli, Intern Architect
Ifi Flores, Graphic Designer
Luis Gonzalez, Registered Landscape Architect
Herb Heiserman, Registered Architect
Sam Levin, Intern Architect
Matt Starr, Intern Architect
Laurie Valora, Graphic Designer

Play, Explore, Grow

The PLAY * EXPLORE * GROW improvements to Haverford Bright Futures pre-school will transform this site to be a valuable learning resource as well as a natural recreational environment, while providing important stormwater management components that will reduce the runoff into the Philadelphia Water Department’s overstressed combined sewer overflow system. Sustainable design principles guided the decisions made to reinvent the expanse of unused lawn into a landscaped urban social setting promoting healthy activities and creating spaces to play, explore, and grow. Two rain gardens with native Pennsylvania woodland trees and plants, a playground with innovative climbing equipment installed on recycled porous playsurface, a turf field for soccer and other sports, a fitness trail, a basketball court surrounded by a 100 meter track, a dog run, a vandal-resistant teaching greenhouse, a performance area with projection wall for outdoor movies, and a community garden with fruit tree orchard and berry hedge, will all contribute to the dynamic activity that will fill this underutilized site during and after school.

A K Architecture, LLC | Philadelphia, PA
Lisa Armstrong, Registered Architect
Max Kaulbach, Structural Engineer

Recess Revisited

Team All Access Pass has designed a new look and a new environment for teaching: a Natural Learning and Play Area. The old patio outside the classrooms will be transformed into a covered space that can be used for learning at least three seasons each year. The former lawn area will be converted into a place filled with nature, where children can play with friends in woodland niches, draw maps of the playground from the upper deck of the Tree House, dip their fingers in the vernal pool to touch the DNA-shaped threads of toad eggs in the spring. We also propose to make Bright Futures the new destination for the neighborhood by carving out a park for people to gather and enjoy concerts and community events, grow a community garden for healthy food, and build a trail that will connect these to the surrounding neighborhoods and the City.

Carol A. Krawczyk, Landscape Architect, Inc. | Kennett Square, PA
Carol Krawczyk, Registered Landscape Architect
Design for Generations, LLC | Medford, NJ
Jack Carman, Registered Landscape Architect
Footprint Architecture & Design | Newark, DE
Willard Hurd, Registered Architect



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