Thinking Pink! Volunteers Alexa Bosse and Ari Miller

by Linda Dottor — September 2nd, 2014   |   Volunteers

alexa and ari with rendering

Meet our volunteer super couple! This spring, architect Alexa Bosse and her husband, landscape architect Ari Miller, led the Collaborative volunteer team in generating a plan for a pop-up park in Frankford. The result is a vibrant design that uses sound activated lights and a whirlwind of “loud screaming pink” to turn a forgotten space into an entirely unique experience.

Their design will be installed in Frankford for the spring of 2015, through the Destination Frankford initiative. The Frankford CDC is hopeful that this temporary park will lead to the construction of a permanent park in the future. As Ari explained, “When you get it out there and people fall in love with it… Then that’s it. You don’t have to do anything else.”
Listening as an active activity
As they see their plans beginning to come to life, Alexa and Ari sat down with us to explain their design process and experience with the Collaborative. The volunteer role within a Collaborative project begins with visiting the site and leading a community meeting. Ari described how in these early meetings, “the client came with their preconceived notions about the space, and we came with our preconceived notions about the client—which were completely blown away.”

These meetings require effective communication, and Ari said, “Listening is not a passive activity, it’s an active activity. That’s something that’s really hard to master, and it’s something that the Collaborative has allowed us to hone and practice listening to clients and communities. That’s the lesson we’ve learned, what we’ve gotten better at over time.” Alexa added, “You’re not just volunteering; you’re learning stuff as well.”

Through this listening process, Alexa and Ari discovered that the Frankford community was willing to take risks, and wanted to do something bold with their space. This was exciting to the design team because, as Ari puts it, “very rarely do you get a client that really wants to do something wild. This gave us a great deal of license. A lot of the credit for the design goes to the Frankford CDC as much as it does the design team, because of their ambition to have something that was unusual and bold and unique.”
Jumping up and down!
With their client in mind, the Collaborative team explored options for creating a vibrant neighborhood attraction. When they presented their initial ideas in a later meeting, the bold pink design was an unmistakable success.

How did they know? “Because they were jumping up and down!” Read Full Story

A life affirming space, a pop-up park, and storefront spruce ups

by Linda Dottor — September 2nd, 2014   |   Design Grants

In July and August, we wrapped up projects that will lead to a life affirming space for returning veterans and their families, build a pop-up park, and spruce up storefront facades.

One option for Catharine's House is to build an entirely new facility.

One option for Catharine’s House is to build an entirely new facility.

Catharine’s House
The Black Lemonade Project’s motto is “Empowering parents to squeeze success out of life’s circumstances.” A local initiative of the National Center for Family Recovery (NCFFR), Black Lemonade is helping parents build upon their individual and collective strengths and discover ways to think differently about themselves, their children, and their future.

The Black Lemonade Project currently has no permanent home for the active, family-based community it is building in Philadelphia. But now, NCFFR’s secretary is poised to donate her childhood home to the nonprofit.

Named after her mother, Catherine, this North Philadelphia property will provide Read Full Story

Imagine yourself at the 2014 Bowling Ball!

by chrism — August 15th, 2014   |   Uncategorized

Snapshot of 2014 Bowling Ball postcard

      Art: Mark Aller

Join the Community Design Collaborative for our 18th annual Bowling Ball fun(d)raiser

This fun, unique event will take place on the evening of Saturday, September 27, once again at Erie Lanes. 

Knock down tenpins and enjoy the Bowling Ball’s entertaining costumes, bounteous raffle table, fabulous trophies and prizes, and commemorative goodies. Join us in the lounge at 6 pm to hang with your buddies—or eyeball your rivals—and then bowl from 7 to 10 pm.

Your Bowling Ball sponsorship supports the Collaborative’s work to strengthen neighborhoods through design. Our programs match teams of design professionals with nonprofits in the community who need creative thinking at the earliest stages of conceptual design.

Sponsorship is also a great opportunity to gain visibility in the community as well as provide a super team-building opportunity for your staff! Your team will be among 250 participants rolling on the lanes this year.

And if you sponsor at the BIG LEBOWSKI, 300 GAME, or TEN PIN levels by July 28, your company name will get some extra topspin by appearing on the Bowling Ball postcard we will mail to over 4,000 firms and individuals who support the Collaborative.

If you’re unable to join us this year, please consider sponsoring a lane for one of our nonprofit clients through the Community Bowlers Club.

Your help makes a difference. Last year alone, we provided over $925,000 and 8,778 volunteer hours in pro bono design assistance to nonprofit and public agencies throughout greater Philadelphia. We can’t do this work without your help. Sign up today at

If you prefer to pay by check, you can download a sponsorship form and mail it with your payment to: Bowling Ball, c/o Community Design Collaborative, 1216 Arch St First Floor, Philadelphia PA 19107.

See you at Erie Lanes!

 Thanks to our early sponsors!

300 GAME

Ballinger Architecture and Engineering logo


Brandywine Realty Trust logo

Voith and Mactavish Architects logo

AIA Philadelphia
Alice K. Berman & Associates
Allied Construction
Atkin Olshin Schade Architects
BartonPartners Architects Planners
Blackney Hayes Architects
BLT Architects
Bruce E. Brooks & Associates
BWA Architecture and Planning
CB Design Consultants
DIGSAU Architecture/Urbanism
Econsult Solutions
The Façade Group
Flatiron Building Company
KSK Architects Planners Historians
Langan Engineering & Environmental Services
Larsen & Landis
McGillin Architecture
O’Donnell & Naccarato
Pennoni Associates
RP Management
SFS Office Design
Thornton Tomasetti
Zimmerman Studio

10,000 Small Businesses Initiative of CCP
Cozen O’Connor
Land Services USA
Torcon, Inc. 

Thanks to Our Raffle Prize Donors
Cynwyd Station Cafe and Tea Room
Design Philadelphia
Eastern State Penitentiary
Fleisher Art Memorial
Hush Salon
InterAct Theatre Company
Longwood Gardens
Metropolitan Bakery
Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia
Wharton Esherick Museum

Leverage Re-Mixer

by Linda Dottor — August 13th, 2014   |   Design Grants, Events



First Friday | Leverage Re-Mixer
Friday, September 5, 2014
5:30 PM to 7:30 PM

Philadelphia Center for Architecture
1218 Arch St
Philadelphia, PA 19107

Start September with First Friday at the Collaborative!

We presented some of our great pro bono preliminary design projects at last spring’s Leverage event to raise funding for our Design Grants program. Now we’ve re-mixed them for a new show at the Center for Architecture.

See how we’re putting design in the hands of new audiences and bringing innovation to new places—whether it’s redefining recreation at public parks, greening schoolyards, expanding access to health and wellness, making the daily commute better for bicyclists, or reclaiming a remarkable historic block.

Grab a beer and get a preview of what’s happening this fall at the Collaborative from Beth Miller. And meet Rebecca Johnson, new executive director of AIA Philadelphia. RSVP

A Big Thanks to Our Summer Interns

by Linda Dottor — August 11th, 2014   |   At the Collaborative

Our 2014 summer interns Andrew Halt and Kim Bernardin

Our 2014 summer interns, Andrew Halt and Kim Bernardin

The Community Design Collaborative was fortunate to have two great interns this summer. Andrew Halt is studying civil engineering at the University of Notre Dame. Kim Bernardin is majoring in Architecture and Urban Studies at the University of Pennsylvania.

As interns, Andrew and Kim proved their versatility –  and learned a thing or two about community development, sustainable design, and nonprofits in the process.

Here’s just of a sampling of their work while interning at the Collaborative:

  • Researching hot topics in community development that will shape our 2014-2015 programming
  • Updating our map of completed design grants
  • Developing an online design grant application
  • Putting together a guide to our current exhibition of design grants at the Center for Architecture and helping to install the show
  • Interviewing nine of our volunteers and clients

Thanks so much for your help, Andrew and Kim. Enjoy the last weeks of summer!

A Rising Star’s Road

by Andrew Halt — July 31st, 2014   |   Volunteers

Jim Coburn

At first glance, it is not at all obvious that Jim Coburn started his career designing high-end interiors for big corporations. Wearing cargo shorts and a faded tee shirt that has seen many hard working days, Jim apologizes for his attire. “Sorry for my appearance! I just came from the warehouse.”

Jim is Operations Manager for Rebuilding Together Philadelphia, the local affiliate of the national nonprofit, Rebuilding Together. The mission of his organization is to provide free home repair services to low income residents with a focus on the elderly, the disabled, families with children, and veterans.

Jim works with community organizations, corporations, and concerned citizens to organize “build days” in which hundreds and sometimes a thousand volunteers come out to rehab a whole city block of homes in only a few days. These homes receive critical repairs like new roofing, plumbing, electrical units and quick fixes like painting and cleaning. There are usually four sets of build days every year, happening in different areas of the city from Mantua to North Philadelphia.

In recognition of his excellent work, Jim recently received a Rising Star award from the Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations this spring.

From Interior Designer to Nonprofit Manager
How does an interior designer end up improving the homes and lives of low-income homeowners? There were a few twists and turns along the way, but one of the key stops on the journey was the Community Design Collaborative.

Recalling his first internship and job at a commercial and corporate interior design firm, Jim says “It was not what I really wanted to do… It wasn’t a miserable place to be, it was a good place, good people. But it wasn’t the work I wanted.”

Jim then started looking for other opportunities and came across the Collaborative.

“I needed something to be fun and interesting, so I’m almost positive that what made me check out the Collaborative was to see what projects I could get involved in.” He started by attending a design review meeting, and then signed up for a project. What stood out about the Collaborative for him were different professionals coming together, and how he could use his professional skills. “I don’t know of any other organizations that have opportunities for interior designers on a volunteer basis.”

Jim ultimately led a Collaborative project, the redesign of the Camp William Penn Museum in La Mott, PA. The museum commemorates the Union Army training camp, notable for being the first training ground dedicated to African American troops.

It was an eye-opening experience for him—from leading a volunteer team to learning about nonprofits to running his first community meeting. Once the project was finished, Jim looked for other project management and nonprofit opportunities and came across Rebuilding Together’s job posting. His time at the Collaborative helped him tremendously with the job application, since he was able to write about the Camp William Penn project and use graphics from it.

“I really do attribute the Collaborative to piquing Rebuilding Together’s interest, and quite possibly on having this experience [working at Rebuilding Together]. Otherwise I probably would’ve looked like every other candidate,” says Jim, “But something stood out about this, since I worked with and managed volunteers, renovated an older building and since it was a community based project.”

Seeing an Impact
He finds his current job at Rebuilding Together very rewarding. “I had a twelve-year-old kid give me the biggest hug because we’d put a door on his room and now he could do homework there without his family bothering him. We’ve also had families tell us, ‘We have our dining room back. The bathroom is no longer leaking down onto the dining room, so we can finally have family meals again.’ So it’s stuff like that that’s huge.”

Jim is hopeful about the future of the city and thinks that it’s important to lend a hand to communities in need. “I’ve always been blessed and lucky to make the time to give back. Some of our homeowners have to work 60 hours a week just to feed themselves and their kids. So I think that it’s a responsibility for people who are able to give back to their communities.”

“And if you’re somebody like a designer or an architect, you have skills that are really needed, and it is very easy to volunteer for something like the Community Design Collaborative with those skills. It’s like a no-brainer actually to me (laughs).”

Frankford Pause

by Linda Dottor — July 1st, 2014   |   Design Grants, Open Space, Placemaking


Volunteers Ben Cromie, Alexa Bosse, Airi Miller, and Andy Allwine with Mayor Michael Nutter at the pop-up park unveiling.

At a block party on Saturday, Mayor Michael Nutter unveiled our conceptual plans for Frankford Pause, a pop-up park to be built on a vacant lot next to the Margaret-Orthodox Station. View our album from the unveiling.

Frankford Pause is a part of Destination Frankford, an arts-based initiative using marketing and creative placemaking to enhance and expand the resources of Frankford’s growing arts, artisanal industry, and creative business economy. A pop-up gallery next to the park was also created through the initiative.

Reactivating the Area Around the El
“Frankford was an industrial powerhouse,” says Ian Litwin, a city planner with the Philadelphia City Planning Commission and author of Destination Frankford. Through Destination Frankford, he has been partnering with Frankford CDC to make Frankford a place “where people make things again, just in a different economy.”

“Lots of those old buildings are vacant. A good number are now seeing new life—but not many close to the El,” says Ian. “Destination Philadelphia is re-engaging Philadelphians with the blocks bordering Frankford Avenue. Projects like the pop-up park and pop-up gallery are making them visible—even from the El!”

Our excellent volunteer team, led by Alexa Bosse, used a bold, bright pink for key elements of the park. Loops of hot pink shade cloth will crisscross the sky. Pink paths of pink artificial turf will traverse the lot.  The loops will contain lighting activated by the sound of passing trains.

Moveable cubes covered in pink artificial turf can be reconfigured to fit any community event—an art show, a movie screening, an open air market, or a concert. Plywood platforms will provide perches for sitting, reclining, play, and performances. Plus, the park will provide an engaging place to enjoy new wall murals by Cesar Viveros.

Think Pink, Think Permanent
Kim Washington of Frankford CDC explains, “Margaret-Orthodox is our busiest corner.” She believes this intersection merits more than a vacant lot and says the pop-up park will guide the design of a permanent park. “In the short term, we’re designing a public space for people to come and use, to get an idea of what works and doesn’t work… what people like.”

So what about that pink? Kim recalls, “This was a great idea that came from Alexa [Bosse]. At first it was a shock, but the more we talked and the more the design came together… we really fell in love with it.”

Frankford Pause will be installed and open in Spring 2015.

Volunteer Team
Alexa Bosse, Architectural/Landscape Designer
Ari Miller, Landscape Architect
Andrew Allwine, Architectural Designer
Benjamin Cromie, Planner
Robin Miller, Lighting Designer