Professional and Research Reports

The West Philadelphia Landscape Plan: A Framework for Action.

Graduate School of Fine Arts, University of Pennsylvania, l991.

Poverty, unemployment, and the deterioration of housing and public infrastructure are pressing issues in West Philadelphia. Landscape development alone cannot solve them. However, even small incremental improvements to the urban landscape can have an enormous, cumulative, effect on a neighborhood and how it looks and functions. The West Philadelphia Landscape Project (WPLP) encourages and supports such incremental improvements by individuals and small groups and proposes large-scale projects that can be accomplished only by bigger organizations and public agencies. Successful landscape projects can serve as catalysts for community development and as part of social programs in education, job training, and employment. WPLP addresses these social issues as well as environmental ones, such as land subsidence and flooding in areas over buried streams and filled land.

WPLP is a long-term, action-research project integrating research, teaching, and community service since 1987. Landscape planning and the design and construction of small, neighborhood landscape projects proceeded simultaneously throughout the project. Among other early products were six reports and a digital database that integrated text, statistics, maps, and drawings. This report provides an overview of the first phase (1987-1991) of this award-winning, decades-long project.

Initial work on WPLP from 1987-1991 was supported by a grant from the J. N. Pew Charitable Trust.

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Models of Success: Landscape Improvement and Community Development.

Co-author with Daniel Marcucci. Graduate School of Fine Arts, University of Pennsylvania, l991.

This report presents successful cases of landscape improvement that engendered community development. Each is a model that may inspire other people in other places.

The report describes many types of projects, both small and large, and many different types of sponsors, from individuals and private sponsors, to public/private partnerships, and public agencies. It summarizes lessons learned from these examples and highlights the stories of exceptional cases.

The West Philadelphia Landscape Project is a long-term, action-research project integrating research, teaching, and community service since 1987. This report is among the early products of the first phase (1987-1991) of this award-winning, decades-long project.

Initial work on WPLP from 1987-1991 was supported by a grant from the J. N. Pew Charitable Trust.

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Vacant Land: A Resource for Reshaping Urban Neighborhoods.

Co-author with Michele Pollio. Graduate School of Fine Arts, University of Pennsylvania, l991.

Vacant urban land is a social, economic, environmental, and aesthetic problem that affects millions of urban residents. These vacant lands are a product of forces beyond the control of the neighborhoods where they proliferate, and they have become a symbol of neglect, decay, and despair. Yet vacant land also provides an opportunity to reshape urban neighborhoods that no longer serve the needs of their residents.

This report analyzes diverse types of vacant land, how they came to be abandoned, how they fit into the larger natural and social systems of the city, and how they may be reclaimed. It suggests general design ideas for a number of potential uses that may be tailored to fit the needs of particular people and places.

The West Philadelphia Landscape Project (WPLP) is a long-term, action-research project integrating research, teaching, and community service since 1987. This report is among the early products of the first phase (1987-1991) of this award-winning, decades-long project. It inspired subsequent City of Philadelphia policies and plans for vacant land.

Initial work on WPLP from 1987-1991 was supported by a grant from the J. N. Pew Charitable Trust.

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Shaping the Block.

Co-author with Mark Campbell and Michele Pollio. Graduate School of Fine Arts, University of Pennsylvania, l991.

This report focuses on the block as a significant unit of neighborhood and explores how residents can reshape the block they live on to better support their needs, values, and activities.

The block affords the most direct opportunity to shape community. Here, a small group of people can decide how to mold the character of their block, and individuals can see their mark. The report outlines some key ingredients for successful block projects. It describes important features of the block as they affect social life and identifies the various types of blocks that occur in West Philadelphia. It outlines the opportunities and limitations these features and types pose for change and suggests general design ideas that may be tailored by residents of a block.

This report is addressed to individuals and small groups who wish to make improvements to their own immediate neighborhood and to organizations, such as Philadelphia Green who work with such individuals and groups to support their efforts.

The West Philadelphia Landscape Project (WPLP) is a long-term, action-research project integrating research, teaching, and community service since 1987. This report is among the early products of the first phase (1987-1991) of this award-winning, decades-long project.

Initial work on WPLP from 1987-1991 was supported by a grant from the J. N. Pew Charitable Trust.

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“This Garden is a Town.”

Co-author with Michele Pollio. Graduate School of Fine Arts, University of Pennsylvania, l990.

The report compares eight community gardens in terms of form, decision-making, gardeners’ motivations and values, and the impact of the garden on the surrounding neighborhood. The report also describes common patterns underlying the gardens’ diverse forms and introduces the idea of a common language of design, which applies to the scales of garden, neighborhood, and city.

The West Philadelphia Landscape Project (WPLP) is a long-term, action-research project integrating research, teaching, and community service since 1987. This report is among the early products of the first phase (1987-1991) of this award-winning, decades-long project.

Initial work on WPLP from 1987-1991 was supported by a grant from the J. N. Pew Charitable Trust.

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The West Philadelphia Digital Database: An Atlas and Guide.

Co-author with Robert Cheetham. Graduate School of Fine Arts, University of Pennsylvania, l996.

This report describes a digital database for West Philadelphia and its potential uses.

The computer has been an essential tool both in the development of the West Philadelphia Landscape Project (WPLP) and in making its products useful and accessible to others. Data about West Philadelphia’s physical and natural environment and the people who live there was collected from diverse sources, including federal agencies, municipal departments, research reports, and field work, then digitized at different scales and levels of detail. This information was analyzed, compared, and combined to yield fresh insights about how natural and cultural processes have shaped the urban landscape. The database was designed to be accessible to a large constituency.

Great advances in computer hardware and software occurred between 1987, when we began to construct the digital database, and 1991, the end of the first phase of the project. By 1991, personal computers were sufficiently powerful to run the database; this capability had not existed just a few years before. By 1996 even greater changes were on the way, with the advent of the World Wide Web and ever more powerful personal computers. While the database has not been updated since 1996, it remains an early example of geographic information systems as applied to planning, design, and community development in inner-city neighborhoods.

The West Philadelphia Landscape Project (WPLP) is a long-term, action-research project integrating research, teaching, and community service since 1987. This report is among the early products of the first and second phase (1987-1991, 1994-1996) of this award-winning, decades-long project.

Initial work on WPLP from 1987-1991 was supported by a grant from the J. N. Pew Charitable Trust.

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Air Quality at Street-Level: Strategies for Urban Design.

Prepared for Boston Redevelopment Authority. Harvard Graduate School of Design, 1986.

This study of air quality at street level describes how urban design can reduce both the concentration of pollutants and human exposure to them.

The report presents a framework that bridges the fields of meteorology, air quality management, and urban design, a framework based on the factors that determine how, when, and where air pollutants are likely to be concentrated or dispersed along the street and which human populations are most sensitive to them.

The report summarizes the factors that influence air quality at street level, identifies potential problem areas, describes urban design strategies to reduce either the level of air pollutants or human exposure to them, and classifies design situations in terms of the opportunities and constraints they pose.

The research and report were supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and by the Boston Redevelopment Authority.

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Plants for Passive Cooling.

Co-author with Adele Naude Santos. Harvard Graduate School of Design, 1981.

The use of plants for passive cooling, particularly in temperate humid climates, affords an opportunity to eliminate or reduce air-conditioning in small structures.

This report surveys the literature, identifies a range of design strategies for reducing the surface and interior temperature of buildings through the use of plants, demonstrates their application in building and landscape features, identifies key building and site design issues, and identifies a palette of selected plant species that are suitable for passive cooling in the temperature, eastern United States.

The research and report were produced under a contract with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, as part of the passive Cooling Program of the US Department of Energy.

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Environmental Resources of the Toronto Central Waterfront.

Co-author with Narendra Juneja. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Wallace McHarg Roberts & Todd, 1976.

Toronto’s Central Waterfront is a resource for the entire metropolitan region. It is an active harbor framed by parkland, institutions, businesses, and industry, and also a habitat for rare plants and animals.

This report describes climate, geology, hydrology, soils, plants, and wildlife of the Central Waterfront and interprets the resources and hazards, opportunities and constraints these afford for urban development. It offers guidelines for design and planning and recommends a plan of action. Its value, beyond Toronto, lies in its comprehensive treatment of natural processes in the city and its systematic examination of the interplay among natural processes and human purposes.

This report was produced by Wallace McHarg Roberts & Todd for the Toronto Planning Board’s Central Waterfront Planning Committee to help them develop a plan for the area which would balance the many competing demands and avoid or resolve potential conflicts.

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Comprehensive Land Use Plan, City of Sanibel, Lee County, Florida.

Co-author with William Roberts, Jon Sutton, and others. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Wallace McHarg Roberts & Todd, 1976.

Sanibel is a barrier island off the southwest coast of Florida, long renowned for rare seashells, wild beaches, and abundant wildlife. In 1974, after a decade of intensive development that threatened to degrade Sanibel’s natural environment, residents voted to incorporate as a city to in order to gain political control of future development.

The Comprehensive Land Use Plan for Sanibel evolved out of a close collaboration between planners and lawyers, and legal issues influenced the entire planning process.

Since its adoption in 1976, Sanibel Comprehensive Land Use Plan has withstood legal challenge and has been cited as a benchmark of successful integration of environmental and legal concerns. It was an early example of the use of performance standards to guide and regulate development.

This plan was produced by Wallace McHarg Roberts & Todd and the law firm of Ross, Hardies, O’Keefe, Babcock & Parsons for the City of Sanibel Florida. In 2007, the American Planning Association honored the Sanibel Plan as a National Planning Landmark.

Read the City of Sanibel's current Plan.

 

Pardisan: Plan for an Environmental Park in Tehran.

Co-author with Ian McHarg, Narendra Juneja, and W. Robinson Fisher. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Wallace McHarg Roberts & Todd, 1975.

Pardisan was envisioned as a unique recreation and education enterprise. Its theme was the process of adaptation in plants, animals, and humans as illustrated by exhibits of the major ecosystems of the world, each with their characteristic plant, animal, and human communities.

This report describes the ideas behind the project and the program and design for the park itself. Although it was never constructed (contruction was halted in 1979 following the fall of the Shah), the planning and design for Pardisan influenced and inspired subsequent zoo design in North America.

The report was produced by Wallace McHarg Roberts & Todd for the Iran’s Ministry of the Environment.

 

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Woodlands New Community: Guidelines for Site Planning.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Wallace McHarg Roberts & Todd, 1973.

Woodlands, Texas, north of Houston, has been recognized as a model for the integration of environmental and economic concerns in a highly successful real estate development.

The project was inspired by the developer’s dream of a new town that he imagined as springing up in the midst of pine-oak woodland, but the 18,000-acre site posed serious challenges. One third of the site was within the 100-year floodplain of three creeks, flat slopes and poorly drained soils covered most of the site, and heavy rains were followed by pools of standing water. Conventional drainage techniques would have been expensive and would have destroyed the trees. A “natural drainage system” was designed instead. It relied on the properties of existing soil, vegetation, and hydrology to drain the site and store the runoff. An added benefit was a town-wide open space system that serves as a frame for the town.

Guidelines for Site Planning is a manual for how to achieve these objectives. It filled a crucial gap between the environmental planning studies and their application in site planning and design. For years it was distributed to every developer and architect working at Woodlands.

This report was produced by Wallace McHarg Roberts & Todd for the Woodlands Development Corporation.

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