Institute for Smart & Healthy Cities Venice Exhibit 2023

Student Projects

Schuylkill Yards Master Planning

The Schuylkill yards development project is the attempt to link University City section of Philadelphia back with center city, through the bridging of the rail yards. The project aims to create vertical communities and connections to all of the existing transportation networks (SEPTA rail and bus service, AMTRAK regional, pedestrian vehicles), as well as extend space for new networks (such as a hyperloop system).

Our development process was focussed on the core ideal of knitting the urban fabric, and as such many of our constraints and decisions were based on questions such as “How will this project support the universities?” and “How do these new buildings affect the surrounding community?” By focusing on these simple questions, we were able to create a framework that supported the city while also building a new community from the ground up.

Several main corridors intersect the project and feature wide pedestrian directed pathways. 90% of the corridors are implemented as linear parks as well, as Philadelphia is famously the garden city and our extension should emphasize this core belief rather than shying away from that history. They not only reduce effective heat island and improve visual cues, but bring the population health higher in line with what we see in European cities.

After establishing the base network of buildings and context, and proposing a clear way to knit the city back together, we dove into individual beacons of design that emphasize our ethos, projects whose individual elements would be taken and applied throughout the site post development over time (See subprojects “Schuylkill Yards One and Schuylkill Yards Two).


Our urban extension, rendered, in the context of the Philadelphia Urban Fabric with the two main proposals in place, seen here towards the upper right corner of the image
This graphic showcases the sustainable buildings and initiatives through center city Philadelphia. You can see how currently all the pockets are isolated to educational facilities and big budget skyscrapers, with a general lack of any community connection
Here you can see the location of the urban intervention in Philadelphia. Our site is by far the largest space, as it is directly above SEPTA and AMTRAK’s rail yards. Most of these yards are still active, so we are raising the entire fabric of the extension above the yard, and creating a direct link across the Schuylkill River to the Vine Street Cap Project (See other teams projects)
The upper left image features our newly zoned districts that have been implemented to provide new programs to the site that build upon the adjacent infrastructure and neighborhoods. The upper right diagram showcases the meandering network of pedestrian corridors and parks that cut through these districts and connect to several nodes of the city
We utilized the program grasshopper and experimental plugins like Wallacei to implement generative design strategies, which allowed us to explore massing placement and establish hierarchy rapidly. The upper left diagram illustrates our design goal for the new skyline. Images on the bottom left and along the right side are early attempts at generating the height and placement of buildings based on desired views, heat island effect, and solar gains
This features our final massing study prior to individual explorations and its presence within the context of the rest of philadelphia. Most important is the division of forms and how they interact with the surrounding context

Schuylkill Yards One

  • Daniel Paul

Programmatic Goals of the Site:

  • Create a termination point for The Vine Street Park Project
  • Knit the Urban Fabric of University City to Center City
  • Create an inviting and active space along the Schuylkill River

Invite Businesses to collaborate in a new prototype urban environment for the city of Philadelphia

One Schuylkill Yards Accomplishes:

Developing a centralized transportation hub around 30th street station and the new hyperloop system and an all encompassing vertical city in the tower above that features centralized neighborhoods of mixed use. This provides varied housing options for both middle and upper end development. 

Utilizes elevated commercial spaces that are designed for both the inhabitants of the tower and those who come to visit it. 

Creates interconnected systems with SEPTA and Amtrak that allows the development of a new transportation hub in Philadelphia.

Brings Philadelphia’s signature Biophilia and parks to a vertical building as a showcase of how we can develop green cities both horizontally and vertically.


The tower was run through several Grasshopper algorithms based on height, direction, views, and aerodynamics to create a shape that effectively cut through the wind while also providing the most optimal views. Shown above are a collection of these iterations.
This diagram series highlights the different pieces of the tower and how they assemble with each other, including the central elevator shafts and stairwells (upper left), the main neighborhood gathering levels (bottom left), the intermittent occupied floors (upper right), and the facade structural system (bottom left).
Axon showcasing the tower (front center) and a piece of the surrounding park fabric.
The project is seen here at the street as coming from the Vine Street West project. You can see the large entry hall, base surrounded by green spaces, and the main tower rising behind. The frontage is designed to be more friendly to pedestrians and bikers, with less consideration given to automobiles on the surface in order to preserve a pristine and safe park-like atmosphere.
One Schuylkill yards main tower is actually two, separated by a 60 floor atrium that twists to provide lighting and more to every floor and even the heart of these floors of a deep tower. This vertical space also allows for a passive heating and cooling system, with the facade on either side having the capability to open small vents and allow airflow directly across the space. The two towers are bridged across this atrium with a series of winter gardens every few floors.
These renders all showcase occupiable spaces in the tower. Every six floors a winter garden (upper left) allows for green space high in elevation, bringing a sense of place to even the highest floors. The entry hall for the transport aspects (bottom left) is also filled with interior gardens and green spaces. This is the main corridor up and into the rest of what is a vertical city. Outside the tower (right) is planted heavily with foliated walking paths designed to give not only tenants but all of Philadelphia plenty of spaces to escape the city.

Schuylkill Yards Two

  • Onel Santiago

As part of our thesis project my partner and I were tasked with re-envisioning what Philadelphia's Schuylkill yards will look like by the year 2050. To adapt to population growth and the threat of rising water levels, our proposal explores the idea of extending the city fabric above a vacant industrial zone and active railyard. This allows for the safe extension of urban conditions and allots opportunities for creating a prototype community of forward thinking construction. Introducing two skyscrapers offering an vast assortment of housing, infrastructure, and commercial spaces

To adapt to population growth and the threat of rising sea levels, the proposal explores the idea of extending the city fabric above a vacant industrial zone and active railyard. This allows for the safe extension of urban conditions and offers opportunities for creating a prototype community of forward thinking construction
View of the redeveloped Schuylkill Yards from the Comcast Technology Center on a foggy afternoon
Axon showcasing the second tower (Front Right) within the context of the redeveloped Schuylkill yards
The series of diagrams provided (Top) showcases the development of the design. Establishing setbacks from site boundaries, matching height requirements, tapered massing to minimize casted shadows, gradual twist of massing to maximize views and daylighting, and softening edges to provide an undulating façade. The base of the tower houses a new commercial district (Bottom Left), the middle levels of the tower maintain office spaces for businesses (Bottom Middle), and the top levels are allotted for housing (Bottom Right)
The top 30 stories of the tower is reserved for housing, each floor offering 8 apartments with access to large communal spaces where winter-gardens and recreational activities are located
(Left) Render of the street conditions at the base of the tower, (Right) Interior view of the double height winter gardens