About four-and-a-half miles south of Philadelphia’s Center City, a collection of highly regarded architects are proving that office parks do not have to be soulless and stuffy. For over a decade, the city’s 1,200-acre Navy Yard has been transitioning into a business campus with a focus on high design, all under the parameters of a master plan drawn up by Robert A.M. Stern.
Philly-based firms DIGSAU and Erdy McHenry have already filled in part of that framework with creative buildings wrapped in dynamic facades. Liberty Property Trust also recently unveiled renderings for 1200 Intrepid, a curved office building at the site designed by the Bjarke Ingels Group.
At the center of the Navy Yard is the Central Green—a newly completed, nearly five-acre green space by James Corner Field Operations. Sarah Astheimer, a senior associate at the firm who also lives in Philadelphia, said the project aims to cater toward the young professionals currently working at the Navy Yard, as well as the future residents who will live in the site’s yet-to-be-built apartment buildings. “It is an innovative live-work-play type place,” she said. “The ‘live’ hasn’t gotten there yet, so it’s sort of ‘work-play’ right now.”
Like many of Field Operations’ projects, Central Green has a vibrant mix of landscapes and programming. A gray and yellow running track, dubbed the “social track,” rings the space, forming a recreational band around a collection of smaller circular spaces, each one offering a specific environment or activity. There are lawns, bocce courts, meadows, fitness equipment, a hammock grove, and places for food trucks.
Visually connecting the Central Green are pops of yellow, from the café tables to Ping-Pong tables. Astheimer said the vibrant color was repeated throughout the space to give it a strong, iconic identity.
Built into the playful space is the “Wet Meadow,” a bio-retention area that collects and treats storm water from Central Green as well as an adjacent street. The area is also surrounded by a series of rain gardens.
Field Operations pulled all of these elements together quickly and with a tight budget. Construction of Central Green took only nine months and cost $8.2 million.