CU students take first prize in urban design contest

December 9, 2009

Six Cornell graduate students shared the top prize in the fourth annual Ed Bacon Student Design Competition. This year’s competition challenged students to design and illustrate a concept for the remediation and reuse of a contaminated property in South Philadelphia.

Cornell’s winning team represented three different academic programs and included: city and regional planning students Chris Koenig (M.R.P. ’10) and Dan Kelleher (M.R.P. ‘10); Maureen Bolton ‘10, Zac Boggs ‘10, and Lee Pouliot ’11 from the landscape architecture department; and Tyler Grooms ’10 from the real estate program. The award was presented at a ceremony on Dec. 8 in Philadelphia, hosted by the Ed Bacon Foundation and the Center for Architecture.

"I believe our team was successful because of its interdisciplinary composition," Kelleher said. "Our three advisers — Pike Oliver, Paula Horrigan, and Jamie Vanucchi — all provided different areas of expertise that helped to direct our remediation strategy, programming, and design."

This year’s “Brown to Green” competition focused on Grays Ferry Crescent. This former industrial site presented difficult challenges and, as identified by the Ed Bacon website, a top priority for the students was to “Create modern, sustainable, urban design solutions for this complex brownfield site.”

The team’s design, titled “Rust Renewed,” successfully balanced the economy, environment, community, and history of the redevelopment site. Their development strategy began with site acquisition, included a remediation strategy, and a progressive development of all major property types.

The project, displayed on two, 24” x 34” boards, began by introducing the "brownfield dilemma" that is occurring in Philadelphia and many other cities across the country. The illustrative graphic showed nearby Schuylkill River almost completely cut-off from the city by a ring of both active and inactive industrial land. “As the national economy continues to shift to a service economy, many of these heavy industrial lands are left as unproductive, polluted barriers that continue to deprive the community of riverfront access,” says Koenig.

The concept takes a phased approach to remediation and development, with both happening concurrently. The remediation is a risk-based clean up, remediating some, but not all, of the contamination and then installing engineering controls to monitor and mitigate any residual contamination in the form of polluted groundwater and soil vapor

The city building design employs a mix of uses and opens connections from the intersection of two river-spanning bridges to the riverfront, following a central axis that terminates in a riverside park. The site design respects the 100-year-flood plain with an environmental education center included in the park, illustrating both flood-proof design and informing the community of their industrial legacy, how the site was cleaned, and what monitoring controls are in place to ensure public health is protected.

Winning entries from six schools were placed on public exhibition at the Center for Architecture, in Philadelphia. A jury of architects, developers, planners, and real estate professionals chose winners from a total of 22 designs.

Last year, a team of Cornell city and regional planning and landscape architecture students placed second in the foundation's competition, "Rebuild/Revive."

The Ed Bacon Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the vision and legacy of Philadelphia's former city planning director, Edmund N. Bacon (B.Arch. '32).

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