East Park Discovery Center presented to Art Commission

On Wednesday, the Philadelphia Art Commission approved the conceptual designs for The Discovery Center, an outdoor youth education center on the banks of the East Park Reservoir in Strawberry Mansion.

The Discovery Center is a project of Philadelphia Outward Bound and Audubon Pennsylvania, and it’s meant to give the public access to a long-closed-off “little slice of wilderness” in the middle of the city, as my colleague Ashley Hahn described it last summer. Jules Dingle, a principal with Digsau, the architects designing the project, said he was hoping to emphasize the experience of an “ascent to water.” He showed the Commission a picture of a lake at the top of a mountain.

The Discovery Center would be built into an earthen berm at the West Basin of the East Park Reservoir. It is “essentially a one-story building,” Dingle said, but with a tower rising from the berm. The tower would house a climbing wall and a multi-purpose room.

The landscape of the site will be designed by Ground Reconsidered. Among other considerations, the firm intends to maintain the unique habitat of the site, where more than 130 bird species have been spotted.

Christopher Boccella, of CVMNEXT Construction, which is managing the project, said the Discovery Center could be open toward the end of 2017.

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