Installation of the Philly Works Quality of Life map
Better Blocks Philly is a community-driven design project that took place throughout DesignPhiladelphia, which just wrapped up on Sunday. Inspired by the original Better Blocks Dallas, the goal of this project was to create a more pleasant and safer pedestrian environment by utilizing vacant retail spaces, employing traffic calming strategies and hosting community events. This project took place along several streets in the Graduate Hospital neighborhood in Southwest Center City, Philadelphia. Catalyzed by SOSNA (South of South Neighborhood Association), Better Blocks Philly joined forces with Philly-based urban planning & landscape architecture firms WRT and Brown & Keener.
The foundation of Better Blocks Philly was focused on how to make the streets safer with traffic calming strategies, utilizing techniques new and old to the urban grid—chicanes (curb extensions) that shift traffic to create an S-shaped path of travel), mid-block crosswalks provide more frequent crossing opportunities near major pedestrian destinations, additional loading zones were created in front of a busy YMCA, and bump-outs (curb extensions) that protrude into the street either mid-block or at an intersection to prevent parking at intersection corners, reducing the street crossing distance, and when located at crosswalks, improving the visibility of pedestrians to motorists.
To beautify and improve the neighborhood, Better Blocks Philly installed parklets (curb extensions that typically occupy the width of a parallel parking spot designed to provide a public place or park for people to relax and sit) that were lined with sod, trees, plants, and café tables and seating.
Better Blocks also utilized a vacant storefront & building as a pop-up shop, yoga studio, lecture-hall, information center and a Philly Works exhibit.
Events hosted by Better Blocks Philly included: an opening party with speaker Gary Toth from Projects For Public Spaces (PPS), reading & discussion with well-known Philly urban farmer Nic Esposito, a Philly Works "Qualities of Life" installation viewing, a punk yoga class, and more!
Ilyssa Kyu is a designer residing in South Philadelphia. She currently works as an experience designer & strategist at P'unk Avenue and regularly does graphic design & consulting freelance work with the Mayorâ€™s Office of Sustainability, CultureWorks, GreenLimbs, and South Philly Green Drinks.
Her personal work explores how design can intervene in our complex relationship with nature through engineering empathy into objects and experiences.