An Experiment in

Sustainable Living


at bartram's garden

The PPEHLab at WetLand closed in June 2017 after eighteen months of experiments. The Lab opened in 2016 and moved up and down the tidal Schuylkill between Bartram's Garden and Center City. The Lab also provided a focus for our spring 2017 Ecotopian Tools public events series and design competition. Seven winning researchers and artists facilitated community events to jam out prototypes for living on warmer waters; you can read about some of them in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The Lab was open for public research floating just off the banks of Bartram's Garden in the Lower Schuylkill River on the followings dates:

SPRING 2017:

4/29, Saturday - 1:30-3pm Mandy Katz and Devid Hewitt led a walk, identifying plants along the River at Bartram's Garden

5/10, Wednesday - Carolyn Hesse debuted SUSPEND, visible from Gray's Ferry

5/16, Tuesday - Gabriel Kaprielian installed eco-pods during sunset boating 6:30-8

5/20, Saturday - during public boating hours, Jacob Rivkin and Eric Blasco built bio-pool

6/3, Saturday (rescheduled from 5/27)- during Bartram's Riverfest Joanne Douglas led a workshop about how textiles can be used to register change in the tidal environment

6/3, Saturday - At Bartram's Riverfest, Cecily Anderson collected input for a map of the changing Lower Schuylkill River

Read about our adventures!


This spring, several art and design installations will extend from Bartram's Garden Community Boathouse. Moored to the banks, and addressing the shoreline, they aim to influence the surrounding area. These installations are the result of an environmental design competition - Ecotopian Tools for WetLand - which began as a call for proposals and juried selection process. Winning toolmakers include Cecily Anderson, Joanne Douglas, Carolyn Hesse, Gabriel Kaprielian, Mandy Katz, Jacob Rivkin and Eric Blasco. Projects are situated to buoy the legacies of Bartram's Garden and WetLand - a boat that serves as a gathering place, art project and science lab- and timed to jibe with the Penn Program in Environmental Humanities' Ecotopian Toolkit conference, April 13-15.

These prototypes for ecotopian tools will introduce strategies for inhabitants of the Lower Schuylkill watershed to consider as we learn to adapt and, in some cases, to float on warmer waters. Cecily Anderson will develop a map of the Lower Schuylkill that is receptive to user's inputs. Joanne Douglas will use fibers and dyes to register environmental information along the river bank. Carolyn Hesse will adapt a floating, mirror-like installation that will animate the river's surface. Mandy Katz plans to develop a comprehensive field guide to plants of the Lower Schuylkill in consultation with the Philadelphia Botanical Society. Gabriel Kaprielian will create floating habitat pods that cultivate plants and attract river-dwelling animals. Jacob Rivkin and Eric Blasco will build a "bio-pool" - a passive floating form that will cleanse the river water it gathers.

A series of weekend workshops at Bartram's Garden from April 29-June 3 will feature each tool with the aim of promoting stewardship of the Lower Schuylkill River in and around Bartram’s Garden. Through these public events and related programs of PPEH, we invite you to participate in exploring how we all might learn to float–and to live and thrive–on warming and rising river waters. Climate prediction models agree that Philadelphia is becoming hotter and wetter. How can we best adapt to the higher temperatures and other extreme weather events that increasingly make up the new normal?

To learn more about WetLand, read the Press Release,
review Instructions for Living with WetLand and its Emergency Operations Procedures handbook.



Photo gallery

Cover Image Copyright: Austin Bream