Landscape as Habitat in Philadelphia

The Cira green building at Drexel University- apartments for students

A quick trip to visit my cousin in Philadelphia led me to a beautifully constructed dorm. What struck me first about the building was park located on a rooftop in the middle of the building. The actual roof also had green space and a pool. A building meant for college students seemed like a wealthy persons favorite hotel.

The park however, was mostly grass with concrete linear paths slicing through the green patches. There were trees and small shrubs in some of the quadrants of green space as well. Railings guarded the sides of the roof and yet the grass went up to the very edge. The architecture of the building we exited to get out to the green space was just as aesthetically pleasing. No boarded up windows, glass lined the entire building letting in so much natural light there was almost no need for artificial ones.

I observed this place through the “landscape as habitat” lens explained in detail by D.W. Meinig. Using this lens to observe this place, gave me a different overall perspective on the functionality of the space. This lens treats all landscapes, urban or otherwise, as being a part of nature.

Meinig explains that even landscapes that don’t seem a part of nature because of a “maladjustment” are  simply in a transition phase of reaching the synchronicity between man and nature. This dorm building in Philadelphia, was a step in the right direction. They had figured out a way to maximize space that already existed to incorporate elements of the natural world- trees and grasses. This was a place designed for mans pursuits, whether to walk dogs or to enjoy the weather it was designed for the people living in this building.

The isolation of this place did not seem so deliberate but was still apparent. Nestled on the roof of a building, and sandwiched between several others it related to Meinigs discussion of the reworking of nature by man.

Using this lens was quite useful in assessing this space, because I had mixed feelings about the space. It was nice that there was somewhere dogs could be walked that wasn’t concrete, but it also seemed like it could be a roof used for solar panels, or they could have planted more trees and had less concrete.

This lens allowed me to see this place as one in transition. While there were certainly improvements that could be made to have more of a balance between “man” and the natural world, it was still much greater than the concrete roof that once existed. It provided an opportunity for students to enjoy being outside- it would be a perfect place for star watching if it wasn’t located in the city. Nevertheless, enjoying sunsets, grass and a breeze this Cira dorm building of Drexel University shows some level of balance between the development of cities, and the nature that once ran rampant before.


Works Cited:

Meinig, D W. “Ten Versions of the Same Scene.” The Beholding Eye, 1 Jan. 1979, pp. 1–8.

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