Gabrielle Beaumont / MArch
Edmund N.Bacon Urban Design Awards
The Big Picture: Revealing Germantown’s Assets
The Edmund. N. Bacon Student Award is a yearly competition for students of design, based in Philadelphia, USA. Every year a different area of Philadelphia is chosen and students from around the world put forward a master plan on how to improve it. This year the area was Chelten Avenue, Germantown. The challenge was to improve the lives of residents through better use of vacant space, way- finding (Street signs or landmarks), transportation and public space development.
My project team was composed of MArch 1 Students and BA Graphic Design students. Working together with different design disciplines has been a new experience and has generated some interesting and creative ideas, with the graphic design students getting more involved within the architectural creative process. Our final proposal created a bio-economy for residents to grow and sell healthy foods through the use of a modular growing structure which we implemented across the Cheltern Avenue, the main thoroughfare.
Due to the site location we had to be creative and use remote methods of consultation such as utilising Facebook groups and emailing business and libraries. In response to the comments from local people bout the quality and variety of fresh food and produce, as well as the need for a foodbank in Germantown led us to think about what sort of food production we could create within Germantown. The proposal allows the community to adapt underutilised land such as car parks, empty shops and roof tops. This is mainly achieved by creating a modular timber structure that can be constructed by the community. The modular structure will support the creation of workshops, community learning spaces and hydroponic growing systems to grow and sell fresh food and develop skills within Germantown which supports economic, social and environmental resistance.
The Submission of our Circular Economy plan for Germantown Philadelphia was awarded the Jury Prize ‘Economy Builder’, this was a great reward and recognition for all the hard work that myself and the team put into this project. Some of the team members took the opportunity to present our project in Philadelphia at the Centre for Architecture and Design, including the winning team, also from Leeds Beckett.
The Award presentation gave us the chance to meet the other winning students and talk about the methods they used to propose their entries, as well as a presentation from the winner of the Edmund. N. Bacon Urban Design award; Majora Carter who works within public planning and design in The Bronx, a borough of New York City, concentrating on improving community areas without gentrification.
We were also invited to present our projects at and Design and Temple University Tyler School of Art & Architecture and discussed our projects with the students and tutors and toured the campus and the newly built Charles Library by Snohetta.
During our tour of Philadelphia we visited Robert Venturi’s Mother’s House, where we cautiously stood on the end of the driveway to take photographs, however we were invited into the home by the owner who very kindly showed us round and explained the history of the building. We also visited Louis Khan’s Medical Research Laboratories, where we were given a tour by the architect and conservation specialist who had worked to restore the building back to its former glory as the building had been modified over the course of its lifetime.
The group also visited Germantown, the location of the project and walked the whole length of Chiltern avenue. This trip was surprising as there were points we had missed on google maps such as new shops and businesses. The local people were very friendly and welcoming as we visited some of the sites, we had created proposals for such as the library and train station.
Our experience of the competition was challenging and rewarding. The opportunity to complete an architectural competition as part of the course was a great experience: Designing as part of a team and with students from different disciplines encouraged creative output and skill sharing. The learning experience of designing to win architectural competitions was a valuable process which will be taken on board for the future.
Finally, the experience of the visit was wonderful and welcoming; the opportunity to present our projects at the Centre for Architecture and Design, Philadelphia and the Tyler school of Art and Design was an enjoyable achievement. Exploring the culture and architecture of Philadelphia was a fantastic opportunity and learning experience.