Friends of the North Philly Peace Park gathered on Saturday, May 15 to celebrate a milestone in the growth of this North Philadelphia ecology campus, founded in 2012 by a group of neighborhood residents, activists, designers, organizers, and educators. The event featured a performance by Urban Shaman, remarks from Dr. John Churchville and Empress Jazmine Nicole Umm Ummah, and food from Atiya Ola’s Spirit First Foods.
The Sala Keturah S.T.E.M. Pavilion — a solar-powered facility containing two classrooms and a kitchen — was designed by Bohlin Cywinski Jackson in close collaboration with the park community, and will host classes, tutoring, events, and workshops. Construction of the pavilion will engage volunteers from the community as well as the services of YouthBuild Philly, T. Savage Construction and Perryman Construction.
Targeting net zero energy, the ‘off-the-grid’ Pavilion will act as a teaching tool for the community by showcasing a variety of sustainable design strategies, including a rooftop solar panel system that will convert energy to power the building and park. These strategies will help promote a thriving hub that supports health and wellness, and connects sustainability with food justice and social progress. Inclusive, equitable, and interdisciplinary, the Pavilion will act as a physical manifestation of the collaborative design process.
Since 2012, North Philly Peace Park has grown to provide free programs for organic and sustainable urban farming and offer STEM-based initiatives, community partnerships, and a local entrepreneur incubator. Its founder, Tommy Joshua, took part in our final Year of Gathering event in the fall of 2020, and spoke about the park’s expanding role in the community and the ways it seeks to intentionally address critical needs, particularly during the pandemic. In Tommy’s words, “the character of the organization came to life,” as Peace Park members provided services ranging from food distribution to a “peace guard” of counselors. The groundbreaking was a chance for the community to recognize the collective work accomplished to date and celebrate a major milestone for the park.
“It’s a great moment, especially since it has been a long time coming… and the product of the deep commitment and passion of so many.”
— Principal Frank Grauman, FAIA LEED AP