JULIE BARGMANN & URBN DEVELOPMENT
When it came time to combine their four corporate brands into a single corporate campus at the nine-acre site of the former Navy Yard in Philadelphia, retail giant Urban Outfitters (URBN) turned to UVa Architecture School professor Julie Bargmann, Founder + Principal of D.I.R.T. studio. A long-time leading proponent of “design activism,” Bargmann and her colleagues worked closely with the URBN design team to draw upon the literal groundwork laid by generations of Navy men and women to honor the legacy of their work both above and below ground. Historic rail lines buried under modern day asphalt were unearthed and incorporated into the site design. Rather than sending off demolition debris to a landfill, the concrete was repurposed into a paving system nicknamed “Barney Rubble” to add porous texture with wild and wooly plants framed by hulking industrial buildings that have stood for more than a century. Smaller chunks of rubble lay at the base of long lines of native trees, shading the west-facing facades and filtering water before it reaches the Delaware River. The resulting complex has drawn raves from the company, which has seen huge gains in creativity, productivity and employee satisfaction, and from the city, which proudly shows off what is a shining example of what can happen when a public/private partnership is dedicated to preservation and progress.
The development has also drawn high industry praise in the form of a 2014 Honor Award from the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA). “This project is an example of ‘practice what you preach,’” Bargmann said. “In this case, it is about literally seeing ideas like the artful and sustainable reuse of demolition ‘debris’ manifest in built form. The attention the URBN landscape has garnered is evidence of how my teaching supports design investigations that – very happily – become models for our students.”