Landscape architecture professor in final round of $5M Knight Cities Challenge

Tim Baird, professor of landscape architecture, has two proposals in the final round of the first Knight Cities Challenge, which aims to “make the 26 communities where Knight invests more vibrant places to live and work.” Sponsored by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, winners will receive a share of $5 million to transform their communities. Baird’s proposals were among the 126 selected from an applicant pool of more than 7,000.

Baird’s projects, “Urban Arboreta: Tree Nurseries that Transform Vacant Lands” and “Recreation Centers as Hubs of Community Stewardship,” are affiliated with the City Parks Association of Philadelphia and his Philadelphia Studio courses.

“The two projects emanate from the work produced by my students in design studios I've done in Philadelphia over the years and will likely include new design studios to implement these projects, if we are lucky enough to get a grant or two,” explained Baird.

Baird’s collaborators include Deenah Loeb, executive director of City Parks Association of Philadelphia, and Penn State alumnus Matt Langan (Class of 2006, bachelor of landscape architecture), a landscape architect with Sasaki Associates in Watertown, Massachusetts. Loeb is involved in both projects, while Langan is involved in “Urban Arboreta.”

“Urban Arboreta” proposes turning the vacant land in Philadelphia into tree nurseries for subsequent tree transplanting along city streets, in parks and in depleted riparian corridors. This project would lead to the development of a “broader system of green infrastructure that includes stormwater management, bicycle and pedestrian circulation, soil production and composting operations, and remediation processes, along with active and passive recreational programming.” Another benefit of the project would be the opportunity for job training and hands-on work experience in the nursery trade for residents.

“Planting blocks of nursery stock on city vacancies would immediately contribute to the Philadelphia mayor’s goal of increasing tree canopy cover from 15 percent to 30 percent by not only generating an increase in canopy cover but also by securing the future urban forest as these trees grow and are transplanted in parks and city streets,” added Baird.

Baird said the goal of “Recreation Centers as Hubs of Community Stewardship” is a “reimagining of city recreation centers into idea and education hubs for city sustainability, training residents in areas such as green infrastructure, food production and soil manufacturing.” The recreation center, selected from the 151 in Philadelphia, would partner with city agencies and community organizations to improve their neighborhoods. By responding to changing demographics and needs, the re-imagined centers would focus on different types of programming that would empower and reconnect their residents to their community and the rest of the city.

The recipients will be announced by the Knight Foundation in the spring. The Knight Cities Challenge is part of a three-year, $15 million commitment that the Knight Foundation announced in the fall.

For more information, visit KnightCities.org.

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Stephanie Swindle

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Public relations, College of Arts and Architecture 

Last Updated February 04, 2015