Track 1: Decline vs. Revival: Tempering the Impulse to Tear Down and Start Over

General Abstract

3 - Philadelphia's Friends Housing Cooperative - A Model of Inner City Urban Rehabilitation and a New Integrated Urban Public Housing Alternative

Monday, September 24
10:30 AM - 12:00 PM
Location: BNCC- 101AH

Philadelphia’s Friends Housing Cooperative (FHC), 1952-1958, is the physical and operational embodiment of this track’s theme: a mid-twentieth century experiment in inner-city adaptive reuse to provide racially integrated urban affordable housing. This presentation will underscore how the vision, design, and project approach that supported the nation’s first integrated, urban rehabilitation self-help public housing project, remain relevant today when addressing historic buildings and neighborhoods facing the challenges of urban renewal.
Within a legal framework that supported, indeed at times mandated public housing segregation – FHC put inclusiveness and integration at the core of its mission. In a context favoring slum clearance and destruction of dilapidated housing stock, FHC was a model of rehabilitation to recapture Philadelphia’s inner-city neighborhoods, despite the lack of federal funding. While funded projects focused on rental housing, FHC pioneered the application of principles of self-help cooperative housing as a path to ownership for urban residents.
Less than a decade ago, the FHC was little-known, threatened by physical decay, mismanagement, and encroaching gentrification. That changed in 2012, when a new Board and energized cooperative members embarked on a multi-year capital improvement campaign, coupled with advocacy efforts culminating in the FHC’s 2015 listing on the National Register of Historic Places. Today FHC endures as a physical snapshot of a brief period in Philadelphia, and the country’s, post-World War II transformation, when social issues and urban design were linked by a “marriage of convenience” between redevelopment proponents and public housing supporters.
Unlike contemporary integrated housing projects constructed in large suburban tracks separated from nearby residential developments, FHC fully embraced the inner-city nature of its constituency and design, and advocated public/private partnerships to keep scaled integrated public housing complexes in the City’s core. It provided an alternative to segregated low-income public rental housing projects, and a stepping stone towards the American dream of home ownership for all. It embraced nineteenth century traditional architectural vocabulary and materials, and technical ingenuity, to transform eighteen dilapidated duplexes into a complex of eighty-four apartment units, with code compliant natural light, ventilation and updated building systems, around a communal landscaped courtyard created through the merger of individual rear courtyards.
This little known, unique example of integrated urban rehabilitation continues to bear witness to an original urban public housing alternative. Today, the FHC neighborhood is on a path towards gentrification, and adjacent demolition and redevelopment efforts means sharing the FHC model is ever more critical: a vision that embraces the physical past to shape the future, that believes in the strength of community involvement, and promotes integration and economic improvement through self-help. A model that fully embraces the spirit and ideals – if not the form – of the founders of the communitarian public housing philosophy.

Learning Objectives:

Leila Hamroun-Yazid, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP

Past Forward Architecture

Leila Hamroun-Yazid, AIA, LEED AP, founder of Past Forward Architecture, is an accomplished preservation architect, with over twenty-five years of national and international experience providing design, planning, management and cultural analysis services primarily for existing buildings. Her projects range from historic urban centers planning, to feasibility studies, award-winning restoration projects and design guidelines. She has a distinguished record in developing strategies for the long-term stewardship of the built heritage with a commitment to customized solutions, adapted to the nature, scale and context of each project. Her multilingual and multicltural background inform imaginative design solutions, that provide a contemporary experience while respecting the integrity and character of the existing building fabric.
Ms. Hamroun-Yazid recently participated in the inaugural Algerian American Foundation (AAF) 2018 Summer University in Algiers, Algeria, a week-long, program for over 100 doctoral students nationwide held at the Houari Boumediene University of Science and Technology. She is a member of the AAF Board and served as an instructor in the Civil Engineering and Architecture track which focused on Design, Construction, Rehabilitation and Resilience of the Built Environment. She is also Scientific Advisor and Subject Matter Expert in Historic Preservation Architecture and Housing Vulnerability for the team developing the Plan Directeur De Resilience Urbaine of the Wilaya of Algiers, Algeria.
Current projects include the Restoration of the Adrian Phillips Theater and the Limestone Façade Masonry Restoration at Boardwalk Hall (National Historic Landmark – 1929), in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Updated Design Guidelines and Standards for the New Castle National Historic Landmark District, in New Castle, Delaware, and Non-Destructive Evaluation Building Envelope Assessment of the Trinity Church (c. 1890) and Old Swedes Church (c. 1699 - National Historic Landmark) in Wilmington, Delaware.


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Tony James

Anthony James is a preservation architect with a background in architectural history and has worked on many restoration and rehabilitation projects of historic buildings over his 40+ year career. He holds a Bachelor of Architectural History from the University of Virginia and a Master of Architecture from the University of Pennsylvania. He currently has his own practice in Buffalo, NY, and is Consulting Architect to the Buffalo OlmstedParks Conservancy.


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3 - Philadelphia's Friends Housing Cooperative - A Model of Inner City Urban Rehabilitation and a New Integrated Urban Public Housing Alternative

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Send Email for Philadelphia's Friends Housing Cooperative - A Model of Inner City Urban Rehabilitation and a New Integrated Urban Public Housing Alternative