Book Nook

This week I decided to run an errand which resulted in one of the most amazing accidental discoveries. On my way back from a closed UPS store I stumbled upon a home with only a single sign outside which read, “New and Used Books”. My first instinct suggested that the new and used books for sale must be those in boxes along the stairs out front. But after perusing through the boxes and not seeing any prices I ventured towards the open door looking for someone to ask a price. Upon stepping inside I was engulfed by the scent of books and the overwhelming floor to ceiling shelves of literature.

The entire home, first and second floor, was filled floor to ceiling and piled tight with every book imaginable. This little bookshop was a pristine book nook of peace and discovery.

After an intial clueless wandering about in shock, I discovered the shelves and piles were labeled with small paper indicators of topic. The prices of books were written in on the inside of the cover. Behind a large pile of books in the front room of the first floor hid the cash register and a very sweet woman.

Needless to say this mini paradise is a trap for my wallet. If, like me, you shouldn’t be purchasing any more books, there are several free resources for reading:

However you get your fix, have fun reading!

MArch Mentors

Ever wish you could have known more before diving into something? MArch Mentors aims to help answer this question. The goal is to pair current MArch students at Penn with incoming students to help answer all those questions that, sometimes, come up well after having accepted and moved in.

Zoe Cennami is leading the effort to pair mentors with mentees by the begining of the Fall 2018 semester. The time dedication is entirely up to the mentor and mentee. It should be a natural and agreed upon series of meetings or exchange of contact information that allows both parties to communicate and learn.

So if you have questions or just want to know more about Penn, Philly, or architecture signing up is a great way to start!

If you are a current student and interested in becoming a mentor look out for the mentor application on Facebook or contact Zoe Cennami.

If you are an incoming student and interested in joining fill out the application form linked on the incoming students private facebook group.

Congratulations on the acceptance and decision! We at PennDesign can’t wait to greet you in the Fall!

Free Workouts

The longer you live in a place the more you discover. Discover the best places to eat, fun places to hang out, and the budget friendly free locations. There are the obvious free amenities: squares downtown, the pop up farmer’s markets, or a walk around the dog park. The best free things replenish your happiness and your health. For me, free workouts are high up on the list of free things which do just that.

Before I had written on a group called Yoga on the Banks, which hosts free yoga classes both outdoors at Schulykill Banks park and indoors if the weather demands. Similar groups appear in excercise stores such the Philadelphia Runner’s pop up yoga classes on Walnut just across from campus.

Excercise stores/venues will even have promotions or free weeks of excercise classes. This week a friend and I decided to try a new spin gym called RevelRide (, located on South Street. This gym allows interested people a free week of spin classes before purchasing a membership. I didn’t time it but overall I feel like it was a 45 minute walk there, a 45 minute class, and a 45 minute walk back. For summer that isn’t bad, however during school there are other ways to get there. On street parking is available so if you miss any public transportation to the area no problem.

I think the smiles on our faces can attest to the wonderful workout and the great feeling afterwards walking home. If anything, free classes are the best way to test out a new type of excercise, get a feel for a gyms environment, and keep healthy, happy, and budget friendly.



Eastern State Pennitentiary

Originally designed as a terrifying prison aimed to inspire pentinance in it’s prisoners, this pennitentiary is now a museum aiming to bring attention to the reality of prison, the various prison types, and the implications of the prison system.

This museum is eye opening in several ways. The first is obvious, waking up the public to the reality of crime statistics, the impacts of prison life, and the way in which a prisoners sentence truly impacts their life and potential success upon release. The second, less obvious, prison design and the potential instructional value of a prison ruin.

As a student in a construction related field I found this ruin particularly interesting for the details revealed by the disrepair. From wall construction to roof vaulting and window to wall connections this prison ruin reveals stunning construction details often seen only in books and photographs by students. I think that this ruin would make a fantastic field trip location for students of design, particularly architecture or construction, to view built details. This local attraction could even be extra credit if it isn’t possible to integrate it into the curriculum. Honestly it would be pretty cool if a professor could get a private tour and a more in depth look at the construction and maintenance of this prison ruin turned museum.


From a design perspective:


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From a construction perspective:


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Walking the City


Recently I have had an internal debate on having a car in the city. Previously I have written the pros, with few cons, to having a car in the city. Well my sister and I decided to go a day without the car. Having no bus, trolley, or subway pass and deciding to skip out on Uber/Lyft, we spent the day walking the city.

This is not a choice for those out of shape. Even being in okay shape, we both felt the walk a few days afterwards. Our 7.5 mile trek of the city took us from University City to the Italian Market, Downtown Philadelphia, Old City, and Chinatown! While it is physically tiring I think it is a great way to see the city and experience it. You notice so much more than in a car. However I would not want to do this everyday for every little task as it is time consuming, tiring, and inefficient on a regular scheduled day.

Should you decide to spend a day or two in Philadelphia though I highly recommend spending at least one day walking it. There is so much to see in the city as it really is small enough to trek to each attraction. Plus it is great excercise on a vacation, especially if you are missing out on excercise otherwise.


Sidewalk Renewal

School may be out but there is no shortage of learning experiences all around in the city. Just this morning I watched a small crew of construction workers repair a portion of the sidewalk across the street from my apartment. It was an interesting process to observe.

The crew had already removed the broken sidewalk a few days prior so all that existed was the remaining sidewalk to attach to and the soil beneath it.

The started by leveling the soil. Soon a concrete truck came by an the men set about pouring concrete into the opening. Using shovels, rakes, and floats (they look like the linear mops but without the fluffy part) the men set about filling the entire hole evenly with concrete. The floats were used to smooth out the top of the concrete. Once this was finished a guy came by throughout the day to check on the sidewalk. It looked like he was using a leaf blower to dry it out faster.

From my previous construction classes I understood that water would be poured over the concrete or a cover would be placed over it to help it cure in proper conditions. Perhaps since this is not structural there is less concern about it curing properly. Rather the crew seemed more keen on getting it set and dried so that the sidewalk could be fully open to the public. Either way I am sure the storm this evening will help out the new addition to the sidewalk.


Chinese Lantern Festival


This event can be a day or night event depending on your interests. My sister and I went just before sunset and stayed after sunset to get the full effect of the lanterns. During the daytime you can see all the structure holding the paper of the lantern. It is much easier to inspect the arrangement, supports, and overall craft of each lantern. However, for the non art or construction major, the lanterns really shine at night. Each one is a beautiful display, some are even interactive changing colors with input from the viewer.

The only downside to this event is that it takes a short amount of time to see the entire thing (including photographing and modeling). Luckily the park it is located in has a mini-golf course and a merry-go-round. As well the festival has a show that repeats twice during the evenings to entertain visitors between lantern viewing.

For my sister and I this was nice as we went around twice to see lanterns during daylight, played a quick game of mini-golf (where we discovered why we aren’t golfers), and went lantern viewing again at night. Below are a few photos of the many stunning lanterns on display this festival:


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Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens


This place lies somewhere between rubble and art. At first glance it is an overwhelming series of walls of concrete and mostly glass. But the more you walk through this installation the more captivating it becomes. Each walk through reveals a new statue previously unnoticed, a unique perspective into a space below, or a fun phrase hidden in all the tiling. The website may suggest it only takes 30 minutes to walk through the whole installation but I would say take your time. It really is a place to stop, reflect, photograph, and enjoy the little discoveries.

My sister and I enjoyed these little findings through our impromtu photo session there. Below are the results of our practice:


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Italian Market

The Italian Market is one of the older sections of Philadelphia. Well known as an open air market with mostly Italian hertiage, it is now a magnet for a variety of people brought together through food. There are plenty of open air stores selling produce and beautiful plants, edible and non, at really affordable prices. Several indoor shops cater specifically to cheese and meat, staple foods.

In addition to the little Italian stores and open air markets, there are a few hispanic stores. One such store made really good tacos. Sadly I was so hungry and tired I didn’t note the name(nor take a photo as it is not the one shown above). Needless to say this makes the mystery taco store the treasure chest of the next Italian Market outing.


For a more traditional list of attractions and history on the Italian Market check out the links above. Better yet, go celebrate 100 years of tradition at the Italian Market Annual Festival this weekend May 19th and 20th!

A Car in the City

Not everyone has a car in the city. Often when people think of the stereotype of the city it is smaller apartments, minimal possessions, no car, lots of walking or public transportation, and a close proximity to a variety of amenities. This stereotype can be true to a certain extent.

Despite living in a city, I chose to keep my car. I find it useful in running errands, shopping, and making trips to friends and family on my time. I think the most important reason I chose to keep my car was flexibility of schedule. Having a car allows me to go exactly where I want when I want. I am not waiting on someone elses timetables, I am not limited by a fare, and I am in control of my own trajectory. The only real limiations to this freedom are parking fees and maintenance.

Parking can be tricky no matter where you are in the US. In Philadelphia it depends on where you are headed. If you are going to Walmart, rest assured there will be plenty of parking space, if you are going downtown, you may be spending some time hunting for a spot or walking from your prefered parking garage (if they have space). Parking downtown is hourly. Some apartments have small lots for residents to park their cars, but not all. The buildig I live in has no parking. If you find yourself in a similar situation there are two options:

Maintenance of your vehicle is up to you. I did not think I would have to take my car in at all while I was here but the winter gave me a surprise. My car died twice over the winter and gave me several odd warnings. This is extremely unusual as I have had this car for several years now and never had a problem with it. Turns out I did not drive it enough during winter (Florida girl is not too keen on driving in snow) and so the battery died. However the batteries death was a slow one which triggered every other possible warning as a distraction.

I would say if you are bringing a car up. Get it completely checked and fixed before getting here so you know that it won’t act up. Look up your cars dealerships or for mechanics in the area and write down their information to keep in your car in case something does happen. And try to drive your car at least once a week, even if it is snowy, to save on the battery life.

Overall I love having my car here and if I had to start over would still keep it. It has been so useful and reassuring to have.