The Science of PLAY | presentation, panel discussion, and book signing

by Linda Dottor — December 19th, 2014   |   Health and Wellness

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The Science of Play

Tuesday, January 6, 2015
6:00 pm, reception to follow
The Center for Architecture
1216 Arch Street

Explore the role of design in constructing urban environments for play and creating quality spaces for children and communities with Susan G. Solomon, author of The Science of Play: How to Build Playgrounds that Enhance Children’s Development and a panel of local leaders in play space. Building on the Community Design Collaborative’s work within schoolyards, parks, and open spaces, help us discover how designers, educators, and parents can join forces to create enriching play spaces, build strong communities, and allow children to thrive and grow in the urban environment.

$10 ($5 for members of the Collaborative’s Community Champions program)

Susan G. Solomon – The Science of Play: How to Build Playgrounds that Enhance Children’s Development
Copies of her book will be available for purchase and signing at the reception.

Sharon Easterling – Director, Delaware Valley Association for Education of Young Children
Alex Gilliam – Director, Public Workshop
Susan G. Solomon – Curatorial Resources and Research
Meg Wise – Executive Director, Smith Playground

Paul Vernon – Principal, KSK Architects

This event is happening in conjunction with the Center for Architecture’s CONSTRUCTING PLAY exhibit.



The Science of Play: How to Build Playgrounds That Enhance Children’s Development
Susan G. Solomon

Poor design and wasted funding characterize today’s American playgrounds. A range of factors—including a litigious culture, overzealous safety guidelines, and an ethos of risk aversion—have created uniform and unimaginative playgrounds. These spaces fail to nurture the development of children or promote playgrounds as an active component in enlivening community space.

Solomon’s book demonstrates how to alter the status quo by allying data with design. Recent information from the behavioral sciences indicates that kids need to take risks; experience failure but also have a chance to succeed and master difficult tasks; learn to plan and solve problems; exercise self-control; and develop friendships.

Solomon illustrates how architects and landscape architects (most of whom work in Europe and Japan) have already addressed these needs with strong, successful playground designs. Having become vibrant hubs within their neighborhoods, these play sites are models for anyone designing or commissioning an urban area for children and their families.


Leila Hamroun, Finding the Future in the Past

by Linda Dottor — December 10th, 2014   |   Preservation, Volunteers

Leila Hamroun

As a preservationist, architect, and Algerian immigrant, Leila Hamroun has devoted her life to learning about the history and identity of places. For her, the challenge is how to create architecture that both contributes to its present community and represents its history. In Leila’s firm, Past Forward Architecture, and Collaborative volunteer work, she manages this delicate balancing act by incorporating the past into the design of the future.

“You’re not betraying history by acknowledging that it’s transforming,” she says. “Transformation is what made everything that we consider today historic. If you don’t do preservation and adaptive reuse, you lose the story of the transformation and you lose part of the identity.”

Bringing the Story to Life
In 2012, Leila was part of the volunteer team looking at Fourth Street Historic Fabric Row, and was instrumental in defining a personality for the corridor – one that maintains its traditions but would not limit its potential. She studied the neighborhood’s rich textile past, and then shifted the narrative from solely fabric to a broader identity focused on design and creativity. This gave the volunteer team the basis for a sculptural, textile- inspired streetscape design of Fourth Street.

Leila said, “Once you frame the story, and you understand what it means to the community, you have a framework for the architectural design. My part in the team, I’ve found, is to bring that story to life.” Read Full Story

Collaborations, Concepts, Reports… Results!

by Linda Dottor — December 5th, 2014   |   Design Grants

The community service and expertise provided by our volunteer design teams can lead to hundreds of thousands in funding for further design and construction. Many of the Collaborative’s past design grants reached development milestones in 2014. Here are a few highlights from this year that demonstrate the impact of our design grants.


Lea Elementary School in West Philadelphia cut the ribbon on the first phase of stormwater management improvements to be funded through a $242,000 grant from the Philadelphia Water Department. More play equipment and a bouncy, colorful, and permeable play surface were installed on the south side of the schoolyard next to Lea’s first community project, a planting bed of native trees and shrubs.  Read Full Story

Collaborative Receives GSK IMPACT Award

by Linda Dottor — December 2nd, 2014   |   At the Collaborative, Design Grants

Board members Paul Sehnert, Alice Berman, and Daryn Edwards join Beth Miller at the GSK IMPACT Award ceremony .

Board members Paul Sehnert, Alice Berman, and Daryn Edwards join Beth Miller at the GSK IMPACT Award ceremony.

The Community Design Collaborative was honored to accept a GSK IMPACT Award on December 2 from GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). We’re one of nine local nonprofits who earned $40,000 each in recognition of their exceptional achievements in contributing to a healthier Philadelphia.

“Place matters,” said Joe Touey, a senior vice president of GSK as he kicked off the awards ceremony.  “There’s a connection between your health and the community you live in.”

GSK recognized the winners of the 2014 GSK IMPACT Awards for the Greater Philadelphia region during a ceremony at GSK’s facility at The Philadelphia Navy Yard. Beth Miller, executive director of the Collaborative, says, “The award recognizes the impact of the Collaborative’s design grants. We’re proud of our volunteer design professionals and their contributions to a more active, green, and healthy city.”

Along with the pleasure of receiving the award, we got to meet the other Philadelphia-based nonprofit recipients and talk about our unique and interlocking roles. Along with the Collaborative, 2014 GSK IMPACT Award winners included After School Activities Partnerships, The Center for Grieving Children, Gearing Up – A Nonprofit Corporation, Graduate Network, Inc., the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, Philadelphia Youth Network, Inc., University City District, and Philadelphia Youth for Change.

Follow our design grants from idea to review to report to results through the photoss by GSK’s Alan Nilsen!

Get the flash player here:

A Healthier Philadelphia
“Today’s winners show us what it means and what it takes to build a healthier greater Philadelphia area,” said Katie Loovis, Director, US Community Partnerships and Stakeholder Engagement, GSK.

Much of what influences our health happens outside the doctor’s office – in our communities. Community factors such as access to healthy foods and recreational spaces, and the support of families and social networks undeniably contribute to our health. The GSK IMPACT Awards recognize nonprofit organizations with sustainable programs that address these critical community factors.

In Philadelphia, the GSK IMPACT Awards are presented in partnership with United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey. “Partnering with GSK to improve lives is what United Way’s work as a convener of the nonprofit and corporate communities is all about, because we know we’re stronger together,” said Anthony J. Conti, interim president and CEO, United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey. “We congratulate the nine winning nonprofits on this well-deserved accomplishment and look forward to the impact they will create to build healthier communities.”


Step Up to the GSK $10K Challenge

by Linda Dottor — December 2nd, 2014   |   At the Collaborative, Best Practices

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The Community Design Collaborative will be the proud recipient of a GSK IMPACT Award today. The award honors our contribution to a healthier Philadelphia. As a bonus, we’re eligible to win an additional $10,000 grant through the GSK $10K Challenge!

The challenge grant will be awarded at the end of today based on the strength of our concept and public response on social media. So join us for this one-day-only #GivingTuesday challenge!

Stairways to Health
Here’s our idea: Philly has one of the highest rates of obesity and associated health problems among large American cities. That’s partly because we don’t have enough safe, well-maintained, and engaging public spaces within reach. Active design—design that makes physical activity more appealing and doable—can help.

Stairways are a big part of Philly’s public spaces (think about your travels today).  The Collaborative proposed to do an active design makeover of one well-used set of public stairs in Philadelphia.

We’ll demonstrate how applying active design principles to our public spaces will encourage Philadelphians to walk farther and take the stairs wherever they can. We want this pilot project to lead to more active design for public spaces. AIA Philadelphia and the Center for Architecture will be our partners in this design initiative.

So step up! Support us in the GSK’s $10K Challenge grant. We’ll be posting #StairwaystoHealth tweets throughout the day. Re-tweet, comment, favorite our tweets—and share your own experiences with photos of the steps you took (or bypassed for the elevator or escalator) today and images of the coolest stairs you can find.

Ideas for Reactivating Vacant Schools

by Linda Dottor — November 24th, 2014   |   Charrette, Schools


For decades, public schools have anchored Philadelphia’s neighborhoods. They are places where you meet other parents, make lifelong friends, and expect to send your children and grandchildren. So, when the School District of Philadelphia recently closed 30 public schools throughout the city, many felt the loss acutely.

How can vacant schools be reactivated and become part of their neighborhoods again? And what happens to vacant schools that do not find immediate buyers and reuses? On November 14, the Community Design Collaborative, the Office of the Deputy Mayor of Philadelphia, and AIA Philadelphia posed these questions to over 100 design professionals, developers, city agencies, and community members. Read Full Story

Erica Sollberger: Many ways to get involved

by chrism — November 18th, 2014   |   Clients, Volunteers

By Andrew Halt


Erica Sollberger, sitting in the beautiful and newly renovated Twentieth Century Club, laughs when asked about what she does as director of Parks and Recreation for the Borough of Lansdowne. “Sorry I’m laughing, because it’s like everything! Even this morning, I’m still itching from cutting shrubs over at the library.”

Erica assures us that her job is usually not this hands-on, and that most of what she does consists of managing the borough parks, which range from over three acres to little pocket parks. She’s also responsible for events at the 20th Century Club, which is a community center that holds everything from weddings to Zumba classes to Arts and Crafts festivals. Part of her job in managing the parks is making improvements, which is how she first started working with the Community Design Collaborative.

“We Don’t have to Settle for a Port-A-Potty Anymore”

Hoffman Park is the largest and most used park in Lansdowne. When improvements were needed to the park’s Mid-Century Modern pavilions, Lansdowne Parks and Recreation and the local Boys and Girls Club teamed up and enlisted the help of the Collaborative.
Both the organizations and the community are very pleased with the final design. Erica loves how, “It helped them to think outside of their box and look to the outside community and say, ‘Oh look, we don’t have to settle for a Port-A-Potty anymore. We can really think bigger.’ I think it’s a really great part of the process.”


Now, just a year and a half after the Collaborative designs were completed, Erica and her team have received a Department of Conservation and Natural Resources grant, along with matching funds from the Lansdowne borough. They were able to put out a Request-for-Proposals, choose a consultant, and are currently in the process of conducting group site visits. With the help of their Collaborative road map, Erica and her team are well on their way to revitalizing Hoffman Park and achieving their goals for the space.

A Good Answer for Bainbridge Green

While coordinating this project, Erica, a registered landscape architect, wanted to get even more involved. “Working with the Collaborative volunteers, I was like ‘This is fantastic, I should do this. I should give back.’ After the Hoffman Park project had finished I knew they were looking for another landscape architect for Bainbridge Green, so I decided to throw my hat in the ring.”

As the lead volunteer for the Bainbridge Green project team, Erica worked with Friends of Bainbridge Green and the South Street Headhouse Square Special Services District on a design to add more green space and gathering places for people along Bainbridge Street between 3rd and 5th Street.

Erica enjoyed the challenge of “coordinating all of the desires of the community… people for parking and for no parking… people for seating and those against it.” She notes, “It’s about dealing with competing interests… So often it’s easy to end up with a mediocre answer because you want to make everybody happy. We tried to come up with a good answer.”

Fresh Eyes on Spring Gardens

After finishing up Bainbridge Green with a presentation to the community at a local bar, Erica switched roles again. She’s a member of the steering committee for The Spring Gardens, a community garden in Fairmount. When debates began among gardeners about the future of the space, Erica knew that the Collaborative was the perfect organization to help.

“We have some construction materials that have been amassed over time, like Belgian blocks and metal fountains, but the question is how we use them and what is appropriate for our garden. We haven’t been able to agree… having someone with a fresh eye take a look, someone who hasn’t seen the garden every day for the last ten years, and give us advice is going to be super helpful.”

Erica has now been an implementer, volunteer, and client of the Collaborative. What really stands out to her is how the community is involved in the design process and how smart design helps them think differently about places they see every day.

“Their projects are not just community at the beginning and community at the end, there’s community in the middle.”