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University City Science Center


This 37th Street walkway, named Innovation Plaza, attracts and connects the area’s many stakeholders to a place of leisure, learning and activity within an urban park setting.

Years of development at The University City Science Center, the largest and oldest urban research campus in the United States, has resulted in an agglutination of buildings on the burgeoning West Market Street corridor at the heart of Philadelphia’s University City District. The corridor of buildings, with minimal retail and pedestrian engagement opportunities, has become a place without an identity.

Leadership at the Science Center had initially requested the design of a wayfinding program to assist visitors with campus navigation. A study performed by Ex;it identified an alternative opportunity: to create a campus center that connects all audiences in the District as a destination landmark as well as a 24/7 experience.

Three narratives were developed to communicate the stories of the Science Center and influence the design of the Plaza: Convergence and Connection; Into the Future and Community.


Designed in collaboration with Andropogon Associates, the design principle behind this Innovation Plaza is the Golden Section, an underlying structure found in elements of nature that has been inspiring designers for millennia, as well as the Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (STEAM) sectors represented at the Science Center. This proportion is scalable and is reflected in the landscape design and sculptural elements of the Plaza.

The red portals are symbolic, branded elements that support the narratives of the Science Center as an invitation into the future and two-way path: entering the Science Center as collaborators and going forth as innovators. They are designed within the proportions of the Golden Section, with a continuous pattern also etched into the surface. Quiet during daytime and illuminated at night, these elements draw people in and through the Plaza. Overhead lighting creates an inviting canopy for evening activities such as movies, events and café experience.


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