City Branch
Philadelphia, PA / 2012-2013

For more than 100 years, the Reading Viaduct was an active elevated rail line that carried passengers and mail to the Reading Terminal until it was decommissioned in 1984. Two sections of the rail, the City Branch and the 9th Street Branch, alternate between elevated and sunken levels just north of Center City Philadelphia. This important remnant of industrial and civic history of the city has since become inhabited by verdant life—pioneer grasses, trees and shrubs have taken root in the nooks and crannies of retaining walls and in the rock ballast between the steel rails and wooden ties.

OLIN’s work in conjunction with stakeholder groups and Friends of the Rail Park, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the reuse of the abandoned rail, re-envisions the City Branch portion of the viaduct as an accessible public green space in a part of Philadelphia that is lacking such civic areas. The concept for the viaduct is built out of the cultural and historical legacy of the place to serve a venue for the arts and the preservation of the industrial legacy—an essential narrative that has yet to be told.

The design’s green infrastructure strategies include increasing the urban forest and pervious surfaces to help divert stormwater from the city’s aged combined sewer system and mitigate runoff pollution while increasing amenity and habitat within the city. This new public amenity will provide passive open space complemented with lush garden greenery, pedestrian and cycling trails, spaces for arts and exhibitions, and create an outdoor classroom for the adjacent Community College of Philadelphia. City Branch offers the unique opportunity to integrate rejuvenating and wild nature into the civic domain.

Will worked on the conceptual design for The City Branch while Landscape Architect at OLIN.

All Images © OLIN