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How this crew of professors is exploring the history of Philly rowhomes

PhillyRow coloring book. September 27, 2016 Category: MethodShort

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Editor's note: The city's "Philadelphia Rowhouse Manual" has been added for reference.
Ten years ago, Temple design professor Bryan Satalino was flying over Philadelphia when he had a curious thought: How many bricks does it take to make just one of those row houses?

It’s not the craziest thought. Philadelphia isn’t the only city composed of row homes, but compared to contemporaries such as Boston and Baltimore, Satalino said there’s a “distinct lack of knowledge” about the homes many of us live in.

And they all vary a bit by neighborhood, from Fishtown to Old City to Powelton Village to East Passyunk and beyond.

“A lot of thse structures, specifically in Society Hill and Old City, were built before record-keeping,” the professor said. “So many were being built over a short period of time in these massive spurts where they’d build a whole block all at once.”

Now, Satalino and his fellow Tyler School of Art professors Abby Guido and Clifton Fordham and a handful of students are using their craft to explore the history of Philly’s row homes.

The project is called PhillyRow, an ongoing and evolving effort to get Philadelphians thinking about the history of their city — specifically, the structures that house them.

The team is starting in Fishtown with a series of kid-friendly events and a coloring book. Guido said PhillyRow will continue to produce “visual products that show the comparison of different houses in neighborhoods.”

PhillyRow is also whipping up a series of infographics that shed some light on row home basics.

infographic

A preview of an infographic about Philadelphia Rowhouses Creative and Art Direction by: Clifton Fordham, Abby Guido, Bryan Satalino. Designed by Dominic Constanzo

The team said they’re looking for some feedback on the project and how it can better build civic pride.

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As for the future? Satalino said the next steps could be a poster exhibition (“much less a coloring book” and much more a design showcase), a parallax infographic website and, “possibly five years down the line,” an app.

“We’re trying to inspire this idea of row house tourism, block tourism,” said Satalino. “You can go plug in your earbuds and listen to a story or gain information about certain tracts of rowhouses in different neighborhoods.”

PhillyRow’s opening reception (part of DesignPhiladelphia) will be in Fishtown at Minnow Lane on Oct. 7.

Wanna learn more about the significance of rowhomes to Philadelphia? Check out the city’s 2008 “Rowhouse Manual.” 

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