Last year in Philadelphia, Amtrak started started tearing things up as part of new work on the west plaza of their 30th street station, replacing the underground parking garage roof. The only problem was it was right next to a new public space called the Porch, which had been created by the University City District, a non-profit in Philadelphia. So the team with the district decided to create an innovative green wall to block the views of the construction, providing a new model for how to camouflage the unsightly. According to Nate Hommel, ASLA, capital projects manager with the district, an average of 1,000 people walk past the popular Porch each hour. See a brief video about it below:


Hommel tells us that his team worked with local industrial designer Mario Gentile, Shift_Design, to create a “modular system” that can be used by the Porch and other public spaces once the Amtrak project is completed. “Shift_Design came up with a modular planter wall that sits in front of the construction fence and is stabilized with ballast comprised of construction debris from the Amtrak West Plaza project.”

But hiding a construction site isn’t as easy as it looks. The Porch is “essentially a bridge” so they couldn’t exceed the weight of 300 pounds per square foot. The area is also a really windy thoroughfare, so it needed to withstand gusts of 40 miles per hour or more.

Once the stainless steel form was in place, Hommel worked with Shift_Design landscape architect, Kate Farquhar, to come up with a “plant palette that would develop into a lush vertical planting wall as quickly as possible.” Hommel tells us that “several species of sedum (Angelina, blue spruce, hispanicum, acre) Eastern Wood Fern and Liriope were used to give us some late winter color. Plants like helleboris, Clematis lonecera Magnifica and Carex morriwii will be giving us some spring and summer textural varieties. Additionally we will add plants as part of our late spring planting change-outs at The Porch.”

All twelve modules were installed in just a couple of days.

Philadelphia is also pushing it in terms of incorporating green stormwater management infrastructure into urban revitalization efforts. The city’s ambitious $2 billion, 25-year program aims to bring green roofs, streets, rain gardens, and enhanced tree pit systems to urban neighborhoods. As part of this effort, Infill Philadelphia: Soak It Up!, a national, interdisciplinary design competition organized by the Philadelphia Water Department, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.) and Community Design Collaborative just announced that teams led by Roofmeadow, OLIN, and Urban Engineers, Inc. won the $10,000 prizes. A total of 28 teams representing more than 100 firms participated.

Explore the presentations by the winners.

Image credits: University City District