Exploring Philadelphia’s New “Penn Park”

A few weeks ago, I had the chance to stop by Philadelphia and the University of Pennsvylania’s new Penn Park, a 23-acre waterfront park woven in between more than five different infrastructural systems and multiple-level land locks. Previously the site of the   post offices’ land, the site stood as unused acreage between Penn’s campus and the Schuylkill waterfront. Surrounded on all sides by Amtrak, light rail, local rail, the highway, and the upper and lower decks of local Walnut Street, the site was not an easy place to access.

While a student at Penn, the site looked like this image (from the Penn Connects website, 2008):

In just a couple of years, the University has transformed the waterfront area into a set of public and private fields, complete with several ramps and bridges that connect the multiple levels together. An overview of the project (via Michael Van Valkenburgh‘s website):

The rest of the photographs are from a walking tour through the project–I walked through it from the Walnut Street entrance (adjacent to the freeway on ramp). The following photographs are all from my camera, December 2012.

Walking onto the site from above, a view from the Walnut Street Bridge:

The site transects several highways and the overpasses and underpasses of infrastructure.

The entrance itself still leaves a bit to be desired–the main access point from Walnut Street is hard to find and not necessarily well-labeled.

The site itself, however, is quite well-maintained and gorgeous in installation, particularly the steep slopes and drainage areas to capture rainwater. Above and below, the ramp and pedestrian bridge entrance to Penn Park.

The site has a tented field and an open soccer field; in addition to 12 new tennis courts and a new baseball field.


The site begins to slope back up, between the elevated freight line and over the ground-level city train line.

A pedestrian bridge between two infrastructures: over and under.



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