what does it feel like when a museum acts more like a community center?


Beginning as a series of pop-up exhibits and performances, Philadelphia Contemporary represents a collaborative of cross-disciplinary artists coming together to engage communities through art and performance. When it was time to imagine their first permanent home, they found an amazing site in West Philadelphia, and we were lucky enough to be part of the great team that was brought in to help them imagine a Museum that behaved more like a community center. With public spaces, jobs training, skills-building, and shared knowledge as their bedrock, and art as the glue that would hold it all together, we helped develop indoor-outdoor spaces to engage the neighbors and provide a range of scales and types of programmatic opportunity.

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On a steep site in a quickly changing part of the city, the design created a stepping, floating sequence of ‘stages,’ platforms that could accommodate flexible seating, activities, gathering spaces, and pockets of garden-like plantings, while ensuring universal access to all of the project’s spaces. Engaging the neighbors, both institutional and residential, meant opening the building up, pulling that landscape in, and thinking about programming not only as intermittent events, but rather a rolling, day/night, 4-season landscape of activities, classes, and places to comfortably gather. Suitable as a hangout for the kids and parents of the PSLAM school immediately to the site’s west, outdoor space for Drexel’s URBN center immediately east, or an engaging pause-point for any number of locals passing by, this flexible site aspires to serve a wide range of uses for West Philadelphia.


  • Location: Philadelphia, PA
  • Size: <1 acre
  • Role: Landscape Architect of Record
  • Services: Conceptual Design