Next American City: Describe the unused railroad site that is the inspiration of your exhibition – what makes it so fascinating and such an untapped resource for the city?
Susan Kolber: Like many people, I visited the High Line in New York City for the first time and was completely inspired by the experience of being above the city in a urban garden. When our architecture studio at Penn was introduced to the site, I couldn’t believe that such an incredibly beautiful piece of infrastructure — with its tunnels, submerged sections, and rails elevated above the city — existed in Philadelphia. It has acted as a host to thousands of plant species for over 20 years, resulting in a secret wild garden. We were inspired by the potential of this space.
NAC: The idea for the above | below | beyond exhibit grew from a desire to use student work to engage the community. What do you hope to accomplish?
Susan: We spend so many hours in the studio analyzing data and coming up with design ideas. There’s a wealth of information available to people who search for it — but it’s not available in one place, or to everyone. We see our role as making information available to the public and are hopeful that the exhibition will inspire the community to become involved in the future of the space. The exhibition includes opportunities for the public to share their own ideas for the railroad.
NAC: Your Kickstarter page launched last week: The design profession has been making use of this tool. Can you explain what you hope it will do for your work?
Susan: Being able to convey the character of this three-mile corridor to people across the country in under two minutes is incredibly powerful and helpful for explaining the context of our work. I think the Kickstarter page serves as a short introduction to the site – especially important for people who wouldn’t normally get a chance to experience it – so they at least get a taste of what it could be, what great opportunities are there.
NAC: How successful has your Kickstarter page been?
Susan: Our goal is to reach $5,800 by next Wednesday, and 5 days out we are less than $1000 away from our goal!
Amy Syverson: Our experience with crowd sourcing through Kickstarter has been great. It is amazing having a group of people rallying behind us and believing in our project. It is amazing to see that our backers really believe in what we’re doing. This has added to a sense of responsibility for us to accomplish what we have set out to do, and to produce a tangible body of work that will be a resource and act as a catalyst for producing change. How well we can get our message out there is unfortunately limited by available funds – through Kickstarter, we are able to think big.
Exhibit Installation at Next American City’s Storefront For Urban Innovation at 2816 W Girard
If you are interested in supporting these students’ efforts, visit the project Kickstarter page before next Wednesday.