Penn Praxis commemorates 10-year anniversary
Since its establishment, Penn Praxis has worked to bring together students, faculty through design
May 10, 2012, 4:16 pm · Updated May 10, 2012, 9:46 pm·
Tomorrow, the School of Design’s Penn Praxis will look to the future to assess how it will continue to grow.
Starting at 9 a.m., Penn Praxis will host a panel to discuss ways in which the program will maintain its continued expansion over the next few years.
The panel is also meant to commemorate the program’s 10th anniversary. For the past 10 years, Penn Praxis has served to bring together students, faculty and other communities through design.
It was originally established to set up a clinical practice in which students and faculty could coordinate on a variety of real-world projects in areas such as architecture, city and regional planning, sustainable planning and historic preservation.
The program extends throughout Philadelphia and into the rest of the country and world, with projects in places such as Singapore and Qatar.
“We’ve grown from a single project in Singapore to a multidisciplinary international consulting practice that gauges our faculty and students on projects that are pretty varied,” said President and Executive Director of Penn Praxis Harris Steinberg, an adjunct assistant professor in PennDesign.
Penn Praxis has worked on projects locally, such as the central Delaware River waterfront, to a project in Qatar that is focused on material conservation, energy loss and sustainable design in the challenging desert environment.
“The influence it has is much wider than Philadelphia and the local Penn community,” senior project manager Bridget Keegan said. “Locally, Penn Praxis has really helped changed the approach to civic engagement in the city.”
The projects are derived from the variety of skills and interests of the faculty and their relationships with those needing work done, Steinberg said.
In creating these projects as a nonprofit organization, Penn Praxis works not to compete head-on with professionals but rather to partner with them.
“The value to the students is actually working on real-world projects that have a client,” Steinberg said.
PennDesign Dean Marilyn Jordan Taylor agreed, adding that in this day and age, there should not be a difference between theory and practice.
“There should be a continuum that is completely aligned, one extent with the other,” she said. “We have to be visionary and pragmatic at the same time.”
Both Steinberg and Taylor are proud of Penn Praxis’ accomplishments and the more than 80 projects that have been done in the first 10 years.
“We’ve billed for $15 million in professional fees,” Steinberg said. “We’ve engaged more than 600 students and worked with nearly 30 faculty members.”
However, the main purpose of celebrating the 10th anniversary is the focus on moving forward.
“Lots of times when you have a 10-year anniversary you celebrate everything that you accomplished,” Taylor said. “We’re really proud of what we’ve done, but the point of celebrating the 10th anniversary of Penn Praxis is to have a conversation and a real spotlight on where we’re going to go in the future.”
She added that an important goal of Penn Praxis is the immersion into the community, working with the community for positive final products.
“In school, we tend to look at computer screens and build models, but when you’re doing a Penn Praxis project, an awful lot of times you’re out in the community,” she said.