Treehouse Books is a registered non-profit that provides educational programs to disadvantaged youth in North Philadelphia. The interest generated by Treehouse’s many programs has taxed their modest facilities, forcing this group to seek other spaces to serve an ever-growing body of students and programs.

In response, the IDC worked with a team of Temple students to design and construct a radical restructuring of the land behind this community group – a small parcel of real estate that contained too much trash, sun, and razor wire to be conducive to effective learning programs. To address these concerns, our design team proposed crafting two vertical filters using free or reclaimed material. The first filter would be applied to the earth, providing a revised ground-scape that spoke clearly to the spaces and facilities required by Treehouse’s programs. 

The second filter would be applied to the sky, providing enough shade to dramatically reduce the heat of the sun, but not enough to kill the sun loving plants grown within the gardens of the space underneath. To create this second filter, our designers experimented with many undervalued materials common to Philadelphia’s urban landscape.

Eventually, the team landed upon a tectonic approach that utilized origami to strengthen and unite scraps of construction fencing. The resulting canopy not only provided the requisite amount of shade, but also helped to create a playful, durable, and child-scaled garden oasis within the tough urban environment of North Philadelphia.


PUBLICATIONS include works by: The Association of Colleges and Schools of Architecture (2007), The industrial Design Society of America (2007) and The University of Technology at Eindhoven (2007).

FUNDING SUPPORT: The International Design Clinic.

PARTNERSHIPS: Treehouse Books of North Philadelphia, North Philadelphia Neighborhood Group, Temple University and the International Design Clinic.