There and Back Again

The Meeting-in-a-Box went on the road to Pittsburgh again last week and we went along with it for our second South Side Park community engagement event.


Pittsburghers in attendance reviewed and discussed reactions to three design alternatives for the South Side Park Master Plan. 


On the Boards


South Side Park: 

A Master Plan in Progress

The first community engagement meeting in Pittsburgh included our team members BreanAssociates and SCI-Tek and a great group of folks, both neighbors of and parties interested in South Side Park, who provided valuable feedback and information. 

Winter Blues?

Us too. So, to combat the cold and dreary Winter, we're thinking of our favorite plants... 

Meet Rhus typhina, otherwise known as staghorn sumac, a tree that belongs to the Anacardiaceae family, the sumac or cashew family (related species include notably cashew, mango, and poison ivy). This is a colony forming plant with velvety branches and ornamental fruits.


Click here to learn more.

Results are in: PRODUCTIVE CITIES, Europan14, Tornio/Haparanda

"THE ENGAGEMENT" is the title of our collaborative submission to the Europan14 competition. We're delighted to report that our team (SBH +  StudioMB) won second place!

1Final boards 7.8.jpg

Thank you to all our team members, and we'd like to give a special shout out to our very own Rebekah Armstrong, for leading the landscape architectural effort on SBH's behalf.

2Final boards 7.8.jpg


3Final boards 7.8.jpg


We're happy to announce the website launch of our  South Side Park Master Plan project.

"Jurassic Valley" and Sterling Street Steps

"Jurassic Valley" and Sterling Street Steps

Content was developed by Pittsburgh's City Planning department. 




Playscapes in NYC

Studio|Bryan Hanes has coordinated two trips to New York City for the parks-professionals, planners, designers, and parks maintenance and management staff associated with our city of Philadelphia. While Philadelphia - with its own style, contexts, and opportunities - is great, we always benefit from learning from our friends, and we can certainly glean a few valuable lessons from one of our nearest neighbors. The Big Apple's parks systems are world-renowned for being productive urban landscapes and diverse play places.

In New York, we were thinking of a new definition of play, but the defining of a thing as idiosyncratic, personal, and profound as play is difficult. Or perhaps a single definition is too confining for this essential activity. 

In the end, our group had a lot of fun frolicking in New York, we came away with great experiences, big ideas, but no universal definition.


For more reading, visit Defining Play.

A Gateway to Play

Smith Memorial Playhouse and Playground initiated their Gateway and Northwoods project in June 2016.

Play finds its way into many of our projects, from the Swings at the Rail Park, which demonstrate play in an urban landscape to the play spaces at Smith Memorial, that encourage curiosity and play in nature. Most of our play projects, however, do not employ "playgrounds" in the typical sense. Rather, spaces or elements that are playful. Smith is a good example of an intensive play design that offers an alternative to artificial surfaces and brightly colored plastics, icons to what we typically consider "playgrounds." 

Participatory design with Smith's kids

Participatory design with Smith's kids

Through multiple iterations, the design team and Smith Building Committee have determined the a way to revitalize and extend Smith’s mission to the street as well as build a resource for the surrounding communities. The design suggests a “gateway” fronting Reservoir Drive that immediately invites passers-by to play. Upgrades to the lawn area in front of the historic playhouse include natural play areas that are designated for age-appropriate gross motor functions: splashing, running, climbing, building. Underpinned by a sustainable site design strategy, all the play areas are utilize natural materials. Utilitarian improvements, like safety elements and parking areas along the entry drive were determined by the site’s environmental constraints and similarly use green and natural materials appropriate for stormwater management.

Conceptual perspective of the "Northwoods"

Conceptual perspective of the "Northwoods"

The Smith Memorial Gateway and Natural Play project design team maintains a project- dedicated website. Please check it out to learn more about the design process, community participation, and what’s to come. 



Something’s up at the Rail Park: It’s the Swings!!!

Construction of this one-of-a-kind, public open space is making headway. The contamination on the existing structure was cleaned up and the structure has been secured. The new surface has been waterproofed and poured. The big stuff is done. Now on to the fun stuff: the swings!

People are talking about the soon-to-open Rail Park and recognizing the park’s potential as a transformative green space and social catalyst for many neighborhoods. In fact, just recently, AIA Philadelphia & The Trestle Inn hosted “Bryan Hanes and Inga Saffron in Conversation.” Discussion ranged from national trends in public space-making to the particulars of this project, like what is it that gets people so excited about the Rail Park? The answer is multifold, but one of the major take-aways is that people are intrigued by the scale and industrial style of this place, two elements exemplified by the swings.

The recently installed swing structures are a dramatic presence on the streetscape and may be seen in the park (at the Callowhill overpass), at the street level below, and from afar.

Come on by and check them out!

Post photos to #therailpark! Spread the word!


Parkside Edge is Under Construction!

Rain gardens and outdoor living spaces are making their way into the Centennial Commons District 'Neighborhood Edge' of our Parkside Master Plan project! Extensive tree protection measures are being taken to ensure the livelihood of these very old species. Here you can see the rain garden pits being graded and prepped for planting. 

We worked with Hammel Nurseries and North Creek Nurseries early on in the planning process. 

City Hall Courtyard

SBH with ShiftSpace and Digsau collaborated on a response for The Mayor's Fund for Philadelphia Heart of the Community Grant Philadelphia City Hall Courtyard RFQ.

Our purpose: To design an innovative, modular, multi-purpose platform for the City Hall Courtyard. Philadelphia’s City Hall is an extraordinary artificial landscape with an extraordinary history. Defined by movement and passage, the courtyard reflects the transience of our dynamic world.

Our team had a blast generating our proposal! The approach encompassed three zones: the ground plane, the plane of the sky, and the zone which is occupied by visitors to the space.

Courtyard Rendering (ShiftSpace, Digsau, Studio|Bryan Hanes)

Courtyard Rendering (ShiftSpace, Digsau, Studio|Bryan Hanes)

In the spirit of friendly competition, we congratulate Sikora Wells Appel for winning the competition! You can read about their design here and make sure to pay a visit to the pop up this summer.