The Navy Yard, Philadelphia

Drive 20 minutes south of downtown Philly, and you arrive at the site of the USA’s first federal naval shipyard, where for nearly two centuries much of the US Navy’s fleet was constructed. Today, the 1,200-acre site is slowly being transformed into a mixed-use urban campus, which currently features a Norwegian-owned commercial shipyard, a scientific research and development precinct and the headquarters of the major apparel group URBN.

The relocation of the Urban Outfitters headquarters (part of the URBN group) to the site in 2004 was an important catalyst, with their adaptive reuse of historic brick buildings demonstrating the potentials of a contemporary work environment away from the city centre. The remarkable fit-outs are complemented by DIRT Studio’s inventive use of recycled material to construct a landscape of ‘forensic traces.’ And then there are the ships. Nothing prepares you for the extraordinary sight of this graveyard of aircraft carriers and frigates – for example the decommissioned aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy forms a formidable backdrop to the communal spaces of the URBN headquarters.

Looking beyond the design, the project is driven by a strong public-private alliance underpinned by commitment to meaningful job creation. On completion, the Navy Yard is projected to employ 40,000 people (almost matching the shipyard’s peak workforce during WW2) continuing the site’s vital role in the economic and historic fabric of Philadelphia.

URBN DRY DOCK NO. 1, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (2009). As part of a former Navy yard revitalisation, DIRT Studio expanded retailer Urban Outfitters' Philadelphia campus around a submerged historic dry dock to create public parks and promenades.

URBN DRY DOCK NO. 1, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (2009). As part of a former Navy yard revitalisation, DIRT Studio expanded retailer Urban Outfitters’ Philadelphia campus around a submerged historic dry dock to create public parks and promenades.

Image: DIRT Studio

DIRT Studio used recycled material to construct a landscape of ‘forensic traces’ at the URBN headquarters.

DIRT Studio used recycled material to construct a landscape of ‘forensic traces’ at the URBN headquarters.

Image: Jillian Walliss

Retired naval vessels are moored at the shipyard.

Retired naval vessels are moored at the shipyard.

Image: Jillian Walliss

Related topics

More the world

See all
Somewhere Other by John Wardle Architects at the 2018 main exhibition. Venice Architecture Biennale postponed until 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has once again cause the 2020 Venice Architecture Biennale to be postponed.

Rifat Chadirji was born in Baghdad in 1926. 'Father of modern Iraqi architecture' dies of COVID-19

Rifat Chadirji, the prominent Iraqi architect, photographer and author, has died in London at the age of 93 after contracting COVID-19.

Can Lis by Jørn Utzon. Desktop destinations: visit some faraway architectural gems from the comfort of your home

We round up some of ArchitectureAU’s most memorable “postcards,” where architects and writers report back on their visits to architectural wonders around the world.

Michael Sorkin Michael Sorkin, ‘supremely gifted’ theorist and architect, dies from COVID-19

American architect, theorist and urbanist Michael Sorkin has died in New York after contracting COVID-19.

Most read

Latest on site

Calendar