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As soon as I moved to Philadelphia to study engineering, I immediately fell in love with the city. The city grid juxtaposes unique neighborhoods, diverse buildings, a massive park system, and most of all incredible energy and human spirit. While exploring Philadelphia, I was struck by the opportunity for growth and the grit left behind from its industrial past. For me, it created a connection and sense of pride in place. The countless abandoned or underutilized industrial buildings were inspiring. I found myself imagining what was inside, how the structure was originally used, and how it could be reimagined for something new.
One of my favorite buildings is the PECO Delaware Generating Station – iconic to Philadelphia and the Fishtown neighborhood. This abandoned powerplant is sandwiched between the Delaware River and Interstate 95 adjacent to Penn Treaty Park and Fishtown. The site has a rich history that includes ship building and coal powered energy production essential to fueling industrial development. The building’s neoclassical façade creates a unique contrast to the rusted industrial smoke stacks looming above.
This project, “Workshop of the World,” strives to directly engage with the community while spurring economic growth. It imagines a variety of open spaces for creators ranging from local makers and start-ups to corporate companies, educational partnerships, and community members. The big idea being that corporations could sponsor innovators and makers, in turn, helping to fuel creativity. The educational component supports the community with job training, apprenticeships, and after school programs while infusing companies with local talent.
To achieve this symbiotic relationship, the various programs would be centered around a renovated Turbine Hall with overhead pedestrian bridges and dynamic open spaces. While different floors are generally designed for specific uses, this four-story space provides opportunity for happenchance meetings, cross disciplinary interaction, and public engagement. Turbine Hall would function like an indoor street with food stalls, artists, and local vendors. As a street, this space blurs the lines between indoor and outdoor space by linking an existing park to the south with a newly developed phytoremediation park to the north.
Architecturally, the building balances preserving historic elements while celebrating its revival with modern construction and openness. The design encourages flexibility and future adaptation. Walls, furniture, and even floors are intended to be movable, allowing users to expand or contract both horizontally and vertically. Existing concrete piers support new steel beams and removable concrete panels to enhance vertical flexibility.
The “Workshop” integrates seamlessly into the site and reconnects the Fishtown community to the waterfront by developing and revitalizing adjacent parks, creating a waterfront promenade, and strengthening pathways to and from the neighborhood. Additionally, the design proposes carving inlets into the shoreline to create a more dynamic push and pull relationship between the urban fabric of Fishtown and the Delaware Waterfront.
This power plant, which once stood as a monument to technology, productivity, and power could be revived for use in a new era of growth fueled by the power of people through creation, collaboration, and diversity.
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KU Leuven, Belgium
Academy of Architecture Amsterdam
Warsaw University of Technology