Nixon Park (PlaySpace Design Competition)


Client: Infill Philadelphia

Location: Cobbs Creek Library, Blanche A. Nixon Branch – Philadelphia Pennsylvania

Status: Design Competition, Top 3 Finalist


  • High-performance landscapes and green infrastructure make a positive contribution to the local ecosystem by reducing runoff and improving water quality
  • All of the play spaces emphasize community play, exploration, and learning to foster collaborative and multi-generational interactions
  • Each outdoor room within the park offers children the ability to connect with nature using their full range of senses by including interactive elements and a themed landscape based on the curricula that interpret literature, natural processes, and geology


TSW entered a PlaySpace design completion in 2015 for Infill Philadelphia, placing as a top 3 Finalist. TSW named the park Nixon Park PlaySpace Design Competition, after the late Blanche M. Askew Nixon, a Philadelphia community leader who dedicated herself to bettering the lives of the city’s youth by providing unique, nature-based play to improve physical health and well-being with playful, didactic park elements that make learning fun.

Nixon Park is an urban oasis providing unique nature-based play to improve physical health and well-being, providing playful, didactic park elements that make learning fun and using green infrastructure to improve the quality of the environment.

This is a transformational project, turning the park from a static greenspace with limited programming to an activity-rich space with diverse opportunities for learning, playing, and greening. The landscape is the common element and framework that connects each layer or curriculum within the park. The park is organized as a series of linked flexible outdoor rooms that can function as individual activity spaces, group activity spaces, or be used as a series of progressive outdoor classrooms. Each room includes unique interactive elements and themed landscape based on the curriculum’s that interpret literature, natural processes, and geology offering children the opportunity to connect with nature with their full range of senses.

Children can learn about the American Legends and Folklore while learning about the journey water takes through a watershed. Familiar characters at each play space will tell their own stories while explaining the habitat and water process.

American Legends & Folklore: Explore American legends and folklore through the connection to the landscape. Follow Johnny Apple Seed and learn about Geronimo’s plight against western expansion in the apple orchard, crawl through a mountain tunnel at Glacier Mountain to learn about John Henry, travel back in time with Sally Ann and Paul Bunyan in the Magic Tree Fort.

Water Journey: Follow water as it winds through the lowland and upland areas of Pennsylvania to the Coastal Plain. Interactive curriculum areas are constructed with geologically-representative landforms and plants to provide outdoor laboratories for self-guided or group learning.

Nixon Park PlaySpace Design Competition provides a unique opportunity for the Cobbs Creek Library to become an active and educational community hub for people of all ages to Learn, Play, and Green. This park is designed within the budget identified of $1.5 million dollars and can be built in phases over time. A large portion of the work in the early phases is eligible for state and local funding for environmental education and stormwater improvements.