University chooses design firm for landmark Penn Park project

conceptual drawing of Penn Park

A conceptual drawing of Penn Park illustrates how the 24-acre project could bring new life to areas along the Schuylkill.

For more than two decades, the landscape architecture firm of Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates has designed public parks and civic landscapes, college campuses and corporate grounds—more than 350 projects in total.

The firm’s newest project, however, may be one of its biggest—Penn Park, a centerpiece of the University’s 30-year master plan, Penn Connects.

In the first phase of Penn Park, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates will help to reimagine Penn’s connection to Center City, in part through the creation of a new urban park along 31st Street, from Walnut to South streets.

The 24-acre Penn Park plan replaces 14 acres of parking lots formerly owned by the U.S. Postal Service with a combination of formal athletic fields and informal recreation spaces. The idea is to combine dedicated spaces for athletics with other open spaces that can be used by the entire campus community. Penn Park stands to substantially increase and enhance existing athletic facilities by adding soccer and football fields and tennis courts, as well as additional open space and parks.

The plan also calls for the design firm to reconfigure 10 acres of athletic facilities to the south of Penn Park to complete the 24 acres of green space from Walnut to South streets. Completion on the project is expected in late 2010.

The firm has worked extensively on higher education projects, including a restoration of Harvard Yard, a long-term plan for Princeton and master plan for Wellesley College. They have also designed an athletic fields complex at the University of Iowa and parks in New York City, Columbus, Ohio and Gwangju, Korea.

Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates has worked with Penn before, partnering with the University on the Module 7 Chiller Plant, located along the Schuylkill River on a site previously designated for athletic fields.

Originally published March 6, 2008

Originally published on March 6, 2008