University City Science Center, the oldest and largest urban research park in the United States, recently celebrated the opening of Innovation Plaza – a new pocket park at the pedestrian walkway along 37th Street between Market and Chestnut Streets in Philadelphia.

J2’s sister company, ex;it, the experience design + strategy firm, was the lead firm helping the Science Center shape new narratives and design a public space with elements representing the activity and energy of the campus. In collaboration with Andropogon, plantings, seating, dining and game tables were designed for people to relax, work and socialize.

The design principle behind this Innovation Plaza is the Golden Section, an underlying structure found in elements of nature that has been inspiring architects, scientists, mathematicians, engineers, artists, and designers for millennia. 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.

Representative of the progressive and collaborative work at the Science Center, the Innovation Plaza is a place of possibilities highlighted by recognition of champions of STEAM. Stained concrete blocks with metal folded overlays recognize those who earn an annual prestigious award for Innovation. These blocks also provide seating and gathering spaces.

Signage designed within the golden section proportion facilitates wayfinding and recognizes donors and sponsors. Benches, landscape, surfaces and seating are abstract yet organized within the golden section and create both efficient paths of travel or a work play environment.

While awaiting its official opening in April 2016 when plantings and trees are with foliage, the community has already embraced this new environment with lots of social buzz for the Science Center as a place to be. If you haven’t had a chance to see it, it’s definitely time worth your while. Congratulations to the Science Center, as well as ex;it’s design team on completing this transformative project for the city!

Stay tuned for news about other projects by our sister company ex;it, as well as exciting developments about J2 + ex;it project collaborations. If you’re interested in learning more about us, contact

Rendering by Luis Aparicio, ex;it.