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An Evaluation of Design, Context, and Engagement in Philadelphia Play Spaces

A design for an urban outdoor play space in Philadelphia


During the summer of 2022, a team of researchers from the Drexel Urban Health Collaborative and Westphal College of Media Arts & Design conducted a process evaluation of 16 Play Everywhere installations throughout the city of Philadelphia. The overarching aim was to better understand aspects of the sites and neighborhoods that can facilitate greater use of Play Everywhere installations and to provide information for future rounds of funding to create more effective spaces. The evaluation found that installations were at sites with diverse neighborhood populations, having lower mean percentage of non-Hispanic White residents nearby than the city average. Each site had its own strengths and challenges. Sites with poor conditions (i.e. cleanliness and maintenance) had the lowest number of visitors and engagement. Sites that were more active/kinetic drew more visitors. Most visitors surveyed were repeat visitors of those sites. While a large proportion of visitors passed through, of those who stopped, 70% spent at least 30 minutes at the sites, utilizing the spaces for recreation and socialization in addition to child activities.


William Penn Foundation
Westphal College of Media Arts & Design

Research Methods

This evaluation protocol consisted of a three-pronged methodology. This included: geospatial mapping and analysis of neighborhood context, EAPRS-Mini (Environmental Assessment of Public Recreation Space) and SOPLAY (System for Observing Play and Leisure Activity) observations, and on-site surveys of adult, English-speaking visitors.

Our team of field researchers went to 12 of the sites during the summer of 2022 to conduct intercept surveys of site visitors and complete SOPLAY observations. Members of the faculty at the Westphal College of Media Arts & Design completed a design analysis of each of the sites to compile individual profiles of the installations. Members of the UHC Data Core utilized GIS data to conduct demographic analyses of the areas surrounding the installations.



Research Team

Student Research Assistants

  • Dustin Fry, PhD
  • Channa Buxbaum
  • Natalia Brownstein
  • Julia Langmuir
  • Vishwa Patel
  • Sarah Weinbrom
  • Douglas Whitmire 
  • Vanessa Xie