Design Philadelphia Celebrates the City's Many Creative Talents

By PW Staff
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Oct. 10, 2012

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The Kiosk (First Edition: Rent-A-Grandma)

Designers : Amy Linsenmayer, Eliza Stamps

Collaborators : The Best Day of My Life So Far senior writing workshop participants and coordinator Benita Cooper

The Kiosk In many countries, kiosks serve a grander purpose than selling tickets or dispensing information. They are micro-spaces that function individually and collectively to shape the surrounding physical, social and economic environment. The Kiosk is a mobile micro-environment that activates public space by engaging communities in interactive projects. Through its flexible programming and location, this modest structure provides a physical space for the emergence of social sculpture. On a given day, the Kiosk may be a puppet theater, a tiny dance hall, a barbershop, a site for fortunetelling and more. For its first iteration, the Kiosk has been transformed into a grandmother’s house.

Rent-A-Grandma Rent-a-Grandma addresses Philadelphia residents’ needs for grandmotherly love and connection. It celebrates the wisdom and significance of senior women in our community and examines how familial ties and physical exchange between individuals of differing generations make Philly “work.” The exterior of the Kiosk remains unchanged, while the interior has been transformed with an amalgam of knick-knacks and sundry items you may find in a grandmother’s home. Featured alongside the structure are portraits and first-person stories of local Philadelphia grandmothers who are part of the senior writing project, The Best Day of My Life So Far. Viewers are encouraged to interact with the sculpture and reflect upon the roles of elder maternal figures in their lives. If you are a grandmother or grandchild who would like to share your experiences or memories, email us at, where we can include your stories on our blog. If you visit the sculpture on the right day, you just may be able to meet and talk with Grandma in her house, hear her stories and ask advice. After “Rent-A-Grandma,” the Kiosk will undergo its next transformation. Subsequent editions of the Kiosk may include the Oracle Center, the Barbershop, the Soup Shack, the Dance Stand and more.

The Design The Kiosk’s design is based on the archetypal structure that one might find in any part of the globe. It is simple, modular, and easily replicated and modified. To a certain extent, the design and build of this structure was informed by the procurement of local salvaged material, including wood from a local 18th century church and the former Schmidt’s Brewery (Manayunk Timber), salvaged doors and windows (ReStore), and used lauan board from a disassembled film set (The Resource Exchange).

Philly Fuel Co


Designers : Philly Fuel Co—Will Belcher, Molly Henry, Andrea Landau, Chris Landau, Danni Sinisi, Autumn Visconti

Designers’ statement : Philly Fuel Co is a dynamic group of planners, artists, and designers promoting microalgae as a viable alternative energy source. Our research found that algae bio diesel is a clean and efficient resource that should be recognized as a major asset in the alternative energy landscape. Through a guerilla marketing campaign influenced by art, architecture, and propaganda strategies, Philly Fuel Co presents an exhibition revealing an impressive and untapped energy resource. The goal of this exhibition is to raise public awareness about the capabilities of algae derived fuel and its ability to reduce dependency on the current drivers of domestic fuel and foreign oil. Our vision unlocks the potential for a future beyond Philadelphia’s post-industrial landscape.

Stick-lets: Reconnecting Urban Children with Nature

Designer : Christina Kazakia, creator of Stick-lets

Collaborators : Rhode Island School of Design (RISD): Neal Overstrom, Director at the Edna W. Lawrence Nature Lab; Amy Leidtke, Adjunct Faculty in the Department of Industrial Design; Demetrios Staurinos, MLA graduate and landscape designer. Other schools and programs: The French American School, Providence, RI; After School Arts, Reservoir Elementary, Providence, RI; RISD Youth Art Camp, Tillinghast Farm, RI.

Designers’ statement : One by one we went around the table sharing our favorite childhood memories. Our memories all took place outdoors. We wondered if children today will have similar memories to share as adults. Will their childhood memories involve stories from nature involving unstructured activities, unsupervised play, and risk-taking? More importantly, who will preserve our natural resources in the future if children today are not provided the opportunities to love and appreciate our Earth? This question led to my Industrial Design thesis at the Rhode Island School of Design. How can I help reconnect urban children with nature through direct experiences with natural elements in their environment? Children today are becoming more and more disconnected from nature. Factors such as urbanization, virtual distractions, parental fears, and decreased outdoor education are leading to this separation. Research, field studies, and case studies helped me realize that the tool should be modular, transportable, and interactive. The product should also trigger direct experiences with nature, giving children the freedom to manipulate, construct, and design their own experiences. It should spark wonder and imaginative play. Stick-lets were designed to prompt children to discover nature that exists around them. By engaging nature through the use of this toy, children can become aware of the resourceful and renewable element, the stick. Not only will children feel a sense of accomplishment for scavenging sticks and constructing forts, but Stick-lets will provide opportunities for problem-solving, teamwork, imaginative play, and hands-on building. This toy will offer a valuable outdoor education. Stick-lets are now being manufactured and sold out of Philadelphia. They come in five shapes with holes of various sizes to accommodate urban branches. They are made of durable, flexible, and colorful silicone making them user-friendly for children. Because of their modular and transportable features, Stick-lets can be used in multiple settings, from backyards to public school properties. Let the fort building begin!

“If we want children to flourish, to become truly empowered, then let us allow them to love the Earth before we ask them to save it.” —David Sobel

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