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Field Operations, OLIN, West 8 among finalists to redesign Philly airport landscape

Five out of 23 design firms made the final cut

One of the most interesting design competitions happening in Philly right now just got a little more intriguing. The Philadelphia International Airport and the Pennsylvania Horticulture Society (PHS) have announced the five finalists in their competition to redesign 130 acres of land around the airport—and it’s a doozy of a list that includes at least two Philly-based landscape architecture firms.

Of the 23 teams that submitted responses to the Request for Qualifications (RFQ) issued in June, the following five firms made the final cut:

  • James Corner Field Operations (NYC, Philly): Their work includes everything from the Central Green at the Navy Yard and Race Street Pier in Philly to the High Line in New York.
  • OLIN (Philly): This Philly-based firm has left its mark all over the world, but here in Philly they’re known for the redesign of Independence Mall, the gardens at the Barnes Foundation, and their work on the 30th Street Station District Master Plan.
  • West 8 (Rotterdam, NYC): One of West 8’s most recent works can be seen at Longwood Gardens’ Main Fountain Garden and Governor’s Island in New York. They also helped with the master plan of the proposed Schuylkill Yards.
  • Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects (NYC): A lot of this firm’s work is based in New York (it was the local landscape architect for Governor’s Island), but they also design the Edward W. Kane Park on Penn’s campus.
  • Phyto Studio (Arlington, Virginia): This small, niche firm specializes in creating plant systems and bringing them back to cities. The team leader Thomas Rainer wrote in his RFQ, “We have to combine the very best of contemporary ecological science with the boldest and most awe-inspiring artistic and creative vision. All within the context that celebrates Philly’s gutsy, gritty, and revolutionary spirit.”

With $20,000 in hand, these firms are now tasked with designing about 130 acres surrounding the airport. The goal is for the redesign to create an “Image Maker” landscape that leaves a better first and last impression on travelers coming in and out of Philly. The design should also enhance the sustainability and resiliency of the airport’s landscape.

The public will have to wait awhile to see what they come up with. All five finalist teams will be able to display their redesigns at next year’s PHS Philadelphia Flower Show in March.