The Porch at 30th Street Adding Major Enhancement with Custom Swings from Gehl Studio

Monday, August 31, 2015

For Immediate Release
Contact: Lori Brennan, 215-243-0555 or [email protected] 


The Porch at 30th Street Adding Major Enhancement with Custom Swings from Gehl Studio

(Philadelphia, PA) – Since its introduction in late 2011, the University City District (UCD)’s Porch at 30th Street Station has become one of Philadelphia’s most vibrant public spaces, with amenities such as flexible seating, seasonal horticulture, and art performances and installations. On the heels of a major site enhancement in May, which included elements designed by Groundswell Design Group and a new food and beverage partnership with restaurateur Michael Schulson, comes the next signature upgrade to the Porch in the form of unique, vibrant, and custom-made swings from Gehl Studio.

The new swings are a result of UCD’s continued mission to be a leader in innovative social seating. UCD established a collaboration with San Francisco-based Gehl Studio to create the custom-made swings designed exclusively for the revamped Porch at 30th Street Station. UCD challenged the team at Gehl to think about a variety of critical components for the swings, such as ergonomics, materials, the user base, the constraints of the space, and integration with the recent updates from Groundswell. The results are 14 slatted, wooden swings made from mahogany plywood, set into a canopy constructed of brightly colored translucent polycarbonate.

University City District aims to build public spaces that enhance the sense of comfort for visitors. “Our research shows time and again that people like a variety of seating, shade, and comfort, so we added more to the Porch with these swings,” said Nate Hommel, UCD’s Director of Planning and Economic Development. “We want people to feel safe and welcome at all of our public spaces.”

“The Porch swings add a strong element of play to the space, which is important for giving people reasons to stay longer and feel spiritually nourished in their busy lives,” added Blaine Merker, Head of Team for Gehl Studios. Merker led a group of designers that also included Ghigo DiTommaso and Celsa Dockstader. “Swings are such an accessible experience, and Gehl worked hard to create ones that are comfortable for everyone.” 

The swings come in three versions: the Porch Swing, which is meant to mimic the simple pleasures of swinging on a front porch, only reimagined for a truly public space; the Lounger, a gentle swing that invokes a feeling of easy living meant to simulate floating on air; and the Park Swing, an individual swing placed on the edges of the Porch. “Imagine having as much fun as you did on a park swing of your youth,” Hommel says.

The swings, though designed in San Francisco, were manufactured locally by Bill Curran Design (BCD), based in Philadelphia's East Falls. Merker continued, “The design is unique to the Porch, fabricated locally, and should be a long-lasting asset that UCD can continue to experiment with—which is something they do so well.” 

The Porch swings were made possible in large part due to an ArtPlace grant from the National Grants Program. ArtPlace grants seek to support creative placemaking strategies across the United States that strengthen the social, physical, and economic fabric of a community through arts and culture. “University City District has shown great initiative by developing these new pieces of functional art around observed visitor behavior,” said Jamie Bennet, ArtPlace’s Executive Director. “The fact that the public significantly informed the design of this new amenity make it a clear example of the type of creative placemaking work we at ArtPlace endorse.”

“We’ve always wanted The Porch to be a place where people could escape the pressures of the day, even for 5 minutes," Hommel said. “We’re excited to see how people will make these swings their own.” 

About University City District (UCD): UCD promotes a world class, vibrant University City through major investments in public space development, public maintenance and public safety, by connecting entrepreneurs and residents to economic opportunity, and through the creation and management of destination events.

About Gehl Studios Launched in 2014, Gehl Studios is the American office of Gehl Architects, a public space design consultancy based in San Francisco with a 45-year history shaping major cities and creating places for people around the world.

About ArtPlace: ArtPlace America (ArtPlace) is a ten-year collaboration among a number of foundations, federal agencies, and financial institutions that works to position arts and culture as a core sector of comprehensive community planning and development in order to help strengthen the social, physical, and economic fabric of communities. ArtPlace focuses its work on creative placemaking, which describes projects in which art plays an intentional and integrated role in place-based community planning and development.

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