Infill Philadelphia is an initiative of the Community Design Collaborative to explore key community development challenges and opportunities through design. Infill Philadelphia engages communities in re-envisioning their neighborhoods, leveraging existing assets, rethinking the use of older spaces, and addressing the practical concerns of specific sites and the communities around them. Infill Philadelphia: Sacred Places/Civic Spaces is a package of community-engaged design services including programs, promotion, and projects with the common goal of re-envisioning historic underutilized sacred spaces as civic spaces.
Historic sacred places have long served as anchors in Philadelphia's neighborhoods. They stand out as beacons for their distinctive architecture, large fathering spaces, cultural significance, strong sense of community, and charitable works. Currently, historic sacred places in Philadelphia are being presented with both challenges and opportunities.
Philadelphia's Historic Sacred Places (The Pew Charitable Trusts, 2017) reports that nearly 10% of Philadelphia's 839 historic sacred places have been repurposed as housing, offices, schools, and child care facilities through adaptive reuse. An additional 5% are vacant. Between 2011 and 2015, more than 20 were demolished to make way for new development.
Philadelphia also has hundreds of active congregations in purpose-build religious properties acting as stewards of underutilized spaces. Whether it is a vacant sanctuary, sparsely-used meeting hall, or mothballed Sunday School wing, these spaces offer real opportunities for congregations to fulfill their missions and build stronger bonds between places of worship and the surrounding community.
Sacred Places/Civic Spaces is a partnership between the Community Design Collaborative and Partners for Sacred Places to re-envision underutilized, purpose-built religious properties as community hubs. The initiative will add the design and development community's voice to a growing dialogue about the intersection between historic sacred places and communities. It will strengthen relationships between sacred places, community organizations, and service providers with a mutual interest in co-location.
Sacred Places/Civic Spaces will demonstrate that underutilized space in historic sacred properties throughout Philadelphia can be activated in ways that expand the civic commons, serve a larger secular purpose, and strengthen communities.
Promote understanding of the realities faced by a diversity of faith communities stewarding historic properties in neighborhoods and offer alternative options.
Challenge the notion that sale and subsequent adaptive reuse or demolition is the only option facing declining congregations.
Provide innovative models and prototypes in which religious buildings house a multitude of co-existing uses for community benefit.
Precedent Exhibition + Launch
The Community Design Collaborative and Partners for Sacred Places will distribute a national call for entries and organize an exhibition highlighting best practices in repositioning purpose-built sacred places as community hubs. This juried exhibition will provide the venue for the initiative's launch and inspiration for the Design Challenge.
Design Challenge + Reveal
The Collaborative and Partners will pair design professionals with the congregations of three real-life, historic sacred places and community-based nonprofit organizations. The designers, congregations, and nonprofits will engage the broader community in the design process and create innovative design and development concepts for incorporating civic spaces into sacred places. They will present their ideas and findings to a panel of experts, stakeholders, and the general public at a special reveal event.
Publication Release + Capstone Exhibition
The Collaborative and Partners will curate a capstone exhibition and develop a companion publication to present the issue, communicate its timeliness, and share the innovative solutions developed through the Design Challenge to a citywide and regional audience.
Infill Philadelphia: Sacred Places/Civic Spaces is possible thanks to the generous support of the William Penn Foundation.