Design Philadelphia and The Philadelphia and Reading Railroad.

As part of this year’s Design Philadelphia Festival two events are examining a three-mile stretch of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad, which is under discussion for development as a linear park connecting many neighborhoods to Fairmount park. The elevated high line portion of the railroad is located right across the street from our gallery at 319 North 11th Street. There has been some opposition to this project. Some would rather it be repurposed back into a source of public transportation, while others have compared it to the now bulldozed Dillworth Plaza which an opposer described as “a homeless encampment and outdoor latrine.” But looking out the second floor window of 319, I can’t help but think that this could be a gem for the community and the city. The abandoned railway – covered in a jungle of weeds and shrubs – holds the potential for a great strip of greenspace running smack through the urban landscape.

The first Design Philadelphia event concerning the railroad is SURFACE, an exhibition by Julia Blaukopf consisting of photographic images of the Philadlephia and Reading railroad imprinted onto wallpaper and tile. SURFACE will open with a reception on Thursday, October 11 from 5-9pm, and will be on view at CITYSPACE (2200 Walnut Street) from October 12-14.

Julia Blaukopf’s photographic composition combines sections of the railroad with its resident plant life.

A second event, Design VIADUCTgreene/DesignPhiladelphia will take place on Saturday, October 13 from 3-5pm at Underground Arts (1200 Callowhill Street). Through the Community Design Collaborative, VIADUCTgreene has teamed up with OLIN, Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, CVM, and VJ Associates to develop conceptual designs for the stretch that could become a public green space. VIADUCTgreene is seeking community input during this event and welcomes feedback in envisioning the potential of the civic space project.

The Community Design Collaborative awarded a service grant to ViaductGreene to envision the railroad as a park.  ViaductGreene was one of 13 nonprofit organizations awarded a service grant from The Community Design Collaborative, which helped assemble a community task force with leaders from different city districts, governmental agencies, and community organizations. Their focus is to develop conceptual designs to transform a section of the underground City Branch railroad into public space. Upcoming plans for the project include moving forward with the launch of an International Ideas Competition, and eventually, ViaductGreene hopes to become the stewards for the three-mile site.

Some plants currently residing on the railroad:

  • big bluestem grass (Andropogon), joe pye weed (Eupatorium) and evening primrose (Oenothera), butterfly bush (Buddleia), which is a prolifically flowering shrub that is often used in gardens to attract butterflies; gooseberries (Ribes uva-crispa); and empress tree (Paulownia tomentosa).  {Empress trees are a non-native plant that came to the United States from China. The seed pods were used as packing material for imported goods, so you often see empress trees growing along rail lines in the US where the packing material was dumped. }

VIADUCTgreene’s proposed three-mile linear park on the railroad.

To view Design Philadelphia’s event page click here.

To learn more about VIADUCTGreene click here.

To learn more about the history of the viaduct check out HIDDENCITY – click here.

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