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Competition: The Next Parkway, Philadelphia

An international ideas contest has been launched for new public realm visions to revitalise the historic city of Philadelphia (Deadline: 27 October)

Open to multi-disciplinary student teams – the competition seeks visionary masterplans to upgrade and connect the busy thoroughfares of the historic city of Philadelphia by creating a new ‘Parkway’.

The project – which marks the 100th anniversary of the city’s scenic Benjamin Franklin Parkway (pictured) – aims to connect neighbourhoods with new street layouts and provide fresh access routes to key culture, civic and leisure resources. The call for ideas also seeks concepts which conserve existing green and aquatic spaces for endangered species.

Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia

Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia

Source: Image by Jim the Photographer

Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia

According to the brief: ‘This year’s challenge seeks creative and open interpretations of what a new “Parkway” could be in a dense and developed 21st century city and invites teams to share your grand vision for how Philadelphia’s existing natural and cultural resources could be better linked with their neighbouring communities – both physically and in the minds of residents and visitors.

‘Philadelphia has a wealth of other natural resources and cultural institutions which would similarly benefit from better linkages to their surrounding communities and with each other (perhaps with fewer demolitions than the Parkway required).’

Founded by English Quaker William Penn in 1682 – Philadelphia is today a major educational and economic hub and the United States sixth most populous city with more than 1.5 million residents.

The Benjamin Franklin Parkway is a dramatic boulevard named after the country’s founding fathers which connects the Philadelphia City Hall and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

The proposed Fairmount Parkway

The proposed Fairmount Parkway

The proposed Fairmount Parkway

Next year marks the 100 year anniversary of the completion of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway Avenue which took 70 years of planning and development to complete. The ambitious project – intended to link Fairmount Park with the city centre – is still not entirely complete despite more than 1,300 buildings being demolished.

The latest competition focusses on three sites in Broad Street in South Philadelphia, Lehigh Avenue in North Philadelphia and Chester Avenue in West Philadelphia. Participants may focus on one or all of the locations but proposals will be expected to prioritise local connections over city-wide integration.

The contest is organised by the Ed Bacon memorial committee of the Philadelphia Centre for Architecture and Design, which features a selection of urban design and planning experts and academics.

The overall winner, due to be announced in February 2018, will receive a $5,000 USD prize.

How to apply


The deadline for submissions is at 11:59pm on 27 October


The registration from now until 28 September is free
The registration from 29 September to 27 October is $25 per team

Contact details

Philadelphia Centre for Architecture and Design
1218 Arch Street
PA 19107

Tel: +1 (215) 569 3186

Visit the competition website for more information

Q&A with David Bender

The associate director of Philadelphia’s Centre for Architecture and Design discusses his ambitions for the contest

Why are you holding an ideas contest for a new parkway-style boulevard in Philadelphia?

In celebration of the 100th anniversary of Philadelphia’s iconic Benjamin Franklin Parkway, the Centre for Architecture and Design’s Edmund N. Bacon Memorial Committee wanted to honour the original impulse behind the Parkway’s creation: to better connect Philadelphia’s citizens with its nearby natural resources and cultural institutions, both physically and emotionally. We are interested in finding ways to extend these benefits into more neighbourhoods throughout Philadelphia, though without as much destruction to the existing urban fabric as the original Parkway required (over 1,300 buildings were demolished).

The winning results of this challenge will be added to our growing library of good ideas for Philadelphia which we have collected over the past 11 years of hosting this competition. We see evidence that past winning ideas have influenced actual urban design projects in Philadelphia, one recent example being the winning entry from our 2011/12 challenge on redesigning Philadelphia’s I-95 corridor. The city’s recently-announced plan to cap and cover the I-95 highway, which runs along the Delaware River, with a green park to connect centre city to the Delaware riverfront, resembles that winning entry.



Source: Image by King of Hearts


What is your vision for the potential future of the competition sites?

The sites our committee has chosen this year are long streets which connect together at least one green space, a large swath of residents, and waterfront access. These include sites in South, West, and North Philadelphia – areas of the city which have historically received fewer resources than the business district of centre city. While there are already recreation centres and green spaces within these neighbourhoods, those amenities would likely be better used (and funded) if they were more overtly connected to local residents, both physically and emotionally. In addition to those connections, we’re asking entrants to consider how their designs can help improve Philadelphia’s storm water system, wildlife corridors, and public health. No small task.

What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?

This annual competition is open to university students from around the world in any field of study. Ed Bacon was a dedicated educator, teaching at the University of Pennsylvania for several decades both during and after his time as Executive Director of the Philadelphia City Planning Commission. In honour of his love of the next generation of urban thinkers, this competition was created to give those future urban thought leaders the opportunity to put their education to the test with real-world applications. Several of our past winners have found employment at local architecture and planning firms, so there are real benefits to entering, in addition to the $5,000 first prize.

The proposed Fairmount Parkway

The proposed Fairmount Parkway

The proposed Fairmount Parkway

Are there any other urban public realm projects you have been impressed by?

Every year we look for examples of urban design related to our competition topic as research for both us and the student entrants. In constructing this year’s challenge, we were inspired by the success that mayor Enrique Peñalosa achieved in Bogotá, Colombia improving transportation options in 1998-2000. By focusing on improving infrastructure for pedestrians, cyclists, and bus riders, thereby connecting those who don’t have the resources to buy a car with the amenities of the larger city, he not only increased people’s employment options, but shifted the focus of urban planning in Bogotá from flashy projects featuring starchitects to ones which instead have the greatest impact for the most people. That’s the kind of impact we hope this year’s challenge will have for Philadelphia’s neighbourhoods.

Which other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects/designers be procured?

In addition to the annual Better Philadelphia Challenge, the centre hosts a Gingerbread Architecture Challenge every November, just as a fun way to engage architects and non-architects in a friendly design challenge. The challenge is open to anyone of any age, and it’s always entertaining to see the results on display in the centre each December.

Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia

Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia

Source: Image by Jeffrey M Vinocur

Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia