One way development and improvement projects are incubated at public institutions in a city facing a stressed budget, is through workshops organized by smaller organizations who connect the necessary professionals to the communities in need.
The goal is for the project to go from the whiteboard to the parcel, so to speak. That’s what’s happening at the Henry C. Lea School, located at 4700 Locust St. in West Philly. In May, we wrote about a design charrette hosted by the Community Design Collaborative. The goal of that charrette was to generate community ideas about how to green the schoolyard at Lea, now a lake of concrete.
The event featured relevant professionals from SMP Architects, Viridian Landscape Studio, Meliora Environmental Design LLC, and a cost estimator who after the charrette compiled the ideas, refined them and applied them to the Lea School. Their plans for how to transform the schoolyard were presented January 9th at a meeting at the school.
Big ideas from the charrette included creating a Secret Garden feel in the schoolyard, linking nearby neighborhood gardens with classroom curriculum, a basketball court, more shading and gardening, as well as raised planters. The report, created by the team of professionals who volunteered their time, concluded that stormwater management, outdoor classrooms, and an outdoor play space were key dynamics to the process.
Creating a unique entryway to the school is also a major element of plans. It may be the first in what will likely be several phases of improvements. Funding is a major issue that needs to be determined.
This is an excellent example of how the many small design workshops hosted in communities throughout the city manifest into palpable plans. It’s something of an, if you will build it, they will come principle. Only here, it’s more, if you can imagine it, get the community behind it and come it with a plan, it can be built (assuming money can be found to build it). Perhaps this charrette can serve as a model for other schools and neighborhoods on how to put their big dreams on paper.
You can download the Greening Lea Master Plan here.