November 09, 2012 by Julia Casciato
BLT Architects announced Nov. 2 that Dan Brown, a senior architecture major at Drexel University, placed third in their second annual Student Design Sketch Competition.
College students in the mid-Atlantic region were challenged to create a conceptual design to develop a public space at the corner of Lehigh Avenue and North Broad Street in Philadelphia, including retail, apartments and parking, to revitalize the area and its surrounding public transportation hubs.
A particular aspect of the competition, and Brown’s design, was linking transportation into the site by making Broad Street Station more visible from street level.
“It’s a nice building, but it’s not used anymore, so I’m trying to give it a little more presence. I built a big canopy that goes over the whole area and swoops over Broad Street for a dry crossing for people underneath. No matter where you are on Broad Street, when you look up and down, you can see it,” Brown said.
Brown studies urban design theory, and Jane Jacobs has become an influence on his designs with her theory of permeability: having smaller buildings make up a block rather than a larger building taking up several blocks and disturbing the fabric of the city. Brown viewed the competition as more of a master plan than a design for particular buildings.
“I actually spent a very long time master planning the site before I actually went to design the specific buildings,” Brown said.
Brown’s design included an extension of row homes, which were not originally in the competition guidelines, building up to large residential towers to serve as the backdrop for the design.
“When you have a professor to guide you, they steer you in the right direction, … but this time it was nice to be completely independent,” Brown said. “Drexel provides students with more practical experience than at other schools. … By working in a firm you get to learn the ‘dirty details’ of architecture that don’t come up in school.”
“It’s great [for students] to be exposed to problems that exist in the city. These are real problems that people are looking at in the city of Philadelphia. Here it was the area at North Broad Street,” Michael Ytterberg, principal of BLT Architects, said.
BLT is one of the biggest architecture firms in Philadelphia, employing Drexel students each year and offering summer internships to their competition winners. The competition was created to identify potential employees and for the firm to become better known among schools and students.
“The architecture business got hit pretty hard by the recession, so I’ve been out of work for a little bit. I have a lot of free time, and I’ve been creating models and I figured I might as well put this to good use and join the competition,” Brown said.
Brown is looking for additional competitions to enter that are similar to this one.
The designs were judged by a jury and critiqued on four areas: creative approach, response to site, sustainability and functionality. The jury included four of BLT’s principals, a University of Pennsylvania professor emeritus, and members of the Design Review from the University of Pennsylvania.
The first-place winner was Victor Hugo De Souza Azevedo from the University of Virginia, and the second-place winner was Henry Glennon from Carnegie Mellon University.