Scout wins Knight Cities grant

Last fall, the Knight Foundation announced the first ever Knight Cities Challenge, calling on civic innovators across the nation to share their ideas for making the 26 Knight communities more vibrant places to live and work. They received upwards of 7,000 applications that were then narrowed down to 132 finalists. Yesterday, the foundation officially announced the 32 winners, who received grants totaling $5 million. Seven of those 32 — more than any Knight city — were in Philadelphia, and Scout is extremely proud to be one of these seven.

Scout’s proposal for the South Philly Stoop will transform the vacant space along the perimeter of the west side of the former Edward Bok Vocational School into a new community living room that provides a space for gathering and encourages interaction between neighbors.

Inspired by the building's namesake Edward Bok, we began exploring how to re-imagine the living room (a term coined by Bok) within the context of South Philadelphia. Part of what makes this neighborhood so vibrant and lively is the front stoop, which offers an escape from the sometimes crowded traditional two-story South Philly row home. It also serves as an extension of the living room in that it's a place where neighbors meet, relax and gossip. Our proposed design elements include a community stoop, a new bus shelter for the 47 bus along 9th Street, a bike pump and repair station and a new-and-improved dog park.

Through a series of community-driven design exercises, we will engage students from the adjacent Southwark School in exploring the concept of the living room and ways to translate this to an outdoor public space. Southwark's student body is representative of the great diversity of South Philadelphia, with 6 languages spoken on a daily basis in the school, translators on staff, and 100% of the students coming from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. These charrettes will not only engage neighborhood youth but also inform the final design.

The project will also invite StoryCorps, one of the largest oral history projects in history, to Bok to capture the stories of neighbors and nearby residents. These stories will be catalogued and preserved at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.

We are deeply grateful to the Knight Foundation for their generous support and to our project team, with whom we're honored to be working: the East Passyunk Crossing Civic Association, MSR Design, Southwark School and StoryCorps.

BOK | 1901 S. 9th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19148
landing page image by Sam Oberter. room photo by Billy Cress. all other photos by Scout