Winners Chosen in “Lots of Power”, A Contest to Transform Vacant Lots

Teams made up of teens and design professionals from throughout the Philadelphia region

Two winners have been chosen in “Lots of Power,” an initiative sponsored by wind power company Clean Currents  focused on one of Philadelphia’s greatest problems, vacant lots. Over a six-week period, five teams of high-school age students and professional designers and architects have developed innovative concepts for specific vacant lots in Kensington.  The two winning concepts–one chosen by a panel of jurors, and another by the public, via social media–will receive a grant provided by Clean Currents to be implemented.

“Lots of Power came directly from conversations that we had with Philadelphia residents, many of whom named vacant land as one of the largest problems in their communities,” said Gary Skulnik, President of Clean Currents. “We had five outstanding concepts submitted, and we are confident that the winning concepts will help transform their neighborhoods in a way that benefits everyone.”

Each of the five teams was composed of one mentee and two mentors, all of whom have an interest in architecture, graphic design, or landscape architecture.  The teams spent the summer researching the Kensington community and developing innovative, positive concepts to transform two specific lots in the neighborhood.

The winning concepts are:

Bird Nest (chosen by jury)

Small Bird

Student: Salina Santiago, Frankford High School

Mentors: Michael Sebright, Energy Reconsidered, Inc. & Kelly Ball, Lammey & Giorgio

The Bird Nest project will integrate art and habitat creation to provide a place for observing nature and for monitoring urban environmental health.   The bird sanctuary and educational outdoor gallery is divided into three zones — the gallery, the perch and the nest.  The gallery provides a space for informative display and serves both birds and people.  The second zone, the perch, is an observation area where visitors can look into the third zone — the nest which serves as a sanctuary for the birds only.  The gallery provides a pathway back to the perch where visitors can look into the bird’s zone — like looking out a window into a backyard.  The project thus creates both a place of refuge for birds and a place of learning for people.

Additional bird feeders and bird baths, constructed of recycled tires and other materials, will be posted to walls and set into the landscape.

Tag, You’re It! (chosen by public via social media)

Small Tag

Student: Melissa Alvarez, Science Leadership Academy

Mentors: Nick Prestileo, AIGA Philadelphia, Tom Nickel, TRN Architecture & Micah Shapiro, Urban EcoForms

Tag, You’re It! will create “community galleries” in Kensington.  The project will clean lots that are now trash-filled and overgrown and paint the neighboring walls white. Community members of all kinds — from graffiti artists to children doodling with crayons to those who have never picked up a paint brush — will then be invited to use the walls as a canvas.

Tag, You’re It! is based on the idea that something considered “bad” can be turned into something “good.”  The project will reframe community thinking on both graffiti and vacant properties.

Full descriptions of the five concepts can be found at

The jury panel was made up of community stakeholders and professionals dedicated to the betterment of Philadelphia.  They include:

  • Frank Baseman, Professor of Design, Philadelphia University
  • Richard Johnson, of Climate & Urban Systems Partnership, funded by the National Science Foundation and affiliated with the Franklin Institute
  • Justin DiBerardinis, Legislative Assistant to Councilwoman Maria Quinones Sanchez
  • Rolando Sanchez, Business Association Manager at Impact Services

“There are 40,000 vacant lots in Philadelphia, detracting from the city’s beautiful neighborhoods and attracting crime,” said Skulnik.  “Lots of Power will make a difference for Kensington, the mentors, and the teens that participate.”

Winning submissions will be recognized at the Lots of Power Community Showcase on October 11th from 6-9pm at AIGA’s Space. All Lots of Power submissions will be featured in this gallery for the month of October.

Lots of Power was administered in partnership with Kensington Renewal, AIGA Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley Green Building Council.