Located on the Delaware Riverfront just north of center city Philadelphia, Penn Treaty Park occupies both a venerable spot in history as well as a coveted and unique location at the water’s edge. Originally the site where William Penn and the Lenni Lenape agreed on peace in 1682, Penn Treaty Park has since been enjoyed as one of the few public waterfront parks on the central Delaware. The City of Philadelphia has great aspirations for the 7-mile central Delaware waterfront. Penn Treaty Park was selected as the early-action project to develop a robust public participation model, and establish a design precedent for future waterfront projects. Studio Bryan Hanes was commissioned by Fairmount Park and the Friends of Penn Treaty Park to develop a master plan and design that will transform this underutilized, but sacred historic location into a regional destination on the river.

Studio Bryan Hanes worked with the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society to develop a community engagement model that has been adopted by the City of Philadelphia and Delaware River Waterfront Corporation for future waterfront projects. Through dialogue and collaboration with the community, a master plan was developed that responded to the community’s input and created a platform for an open, habitable and sustainable waterfront. The design for the park is based on the community’s stated goals and engages the historic tale of the treaty to celebrate the Quaker traditions in a contemporary urban context.

The programmed spaces of the park revolve at the edges of the property around a central open lawn. It is the edges of the site that define the park. The north edge contends with the city and adjacent neighborhoods, and functions as an urban “porch” or threshold that both announces the park and welcomes people into its fold.

The park is meant as a tribute to the Lenape concept of interconnectedness, and the Quaker testimony of responsible stewardship of the earth. We view ecological sustainability as the point of departure for design decisions.  Our efforts at Penn Treaty Park bear witness to this philosophy as the park will establish a new paradigm in sustainable design for the City of Philadelphia as evidenced by the community’s decision to eliminate park surface area in favor of a soft edge on the park that serves a larger ecological purpose. Stormwater and renewable energy generation will be treated at the scale of the problem rather than the scale of the project, accommodating stormwater from adjacent properties and delivering excess energy back to the power grid. Through these interventions, we are able to reveal the visitors’ relationship with nature, and showcase the many ways cities can be retrofitted to become more ecologically productive and experientially rich. The plan is judged as much for its ecological integrity as for its spatial qualities, materiality or social program.

Location: Philadelphia, PA

Awards: PA/DE ASLA Honor Award, Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES) Pilot Project