Civic Commons

National model; Southwest Philadelphia case study

Completed 2016



As part of Reimagining the Civic Commons, an initiative to invest in public spaces in cities across the United States, Studio Gang developed a set of design strategies and techniques that any community can use toward reimagining their civic assets.

Published online as a free, downloadable booklet, the Civic Commons proposal is the result of a six-month inquiry supported by The Knight and Kresge Foundations. Its design ideas and vision share an accessible, visual understanding of how to leverage the core competencies of cities’ public assets, identify ways to make them more meaningful and useful for the communities they serve, and demonstrate how programming and physical space can be used to better connect them with one another.

The proposal offers physical and programmatic changes that can be customized and implemented for seven types of civic assets: libraries, parks, recreation centers, police stations, schools, streets, and transit. It also illustrates examples of the exciting public spaces, uses, and experiences that can be created when this integrated approach to investing in assets is applied in a district in southwest Philadelphia, the first “Reimagining the Civic Commons” pilot city.

Civic Commons site plan diagram by Studio Gang

“We brought in Studio Gang to explore and illustrate what’s possible when you activate what’s held in the public realm for the common good. Grounding the imagination in the practical, the work is meant to inspire a wide range of stakeholders—cities, designers, communities—to look at their own assets and envision how they can do more.”

— Carol Coletta, senior fellow with The Kresge Foundation’s American Cities Practice

1. Open Libraries to Opportunity

Civic Commons Libraries Strategies Diagram by Studio Gang

2. Shape Parks into Experiences

3. Center Police Stations on Community

4. Move Recreation Centers Toward Wellness

“We see positive transformation of cities starting at the architectural scale. We hope to help cities find ways to work together with communities toward realizing the abundant potential of the public spaces and public architecture that exist in every city.”

— Jeanne Gang


Special Mention, Architizer A+ Awards, 2017