Center City’s New “Oasis Garden”

Alexandria Imbesi (right) tends to the "Oasis Garden" she designed for Moore College of ArtPhiladelphia’s designers are on the hunt for underutilized space. Urban nooks and crannies between buildings, on rooftops, and even within parking spaces are the poaching ground for “green fill” – infilling with functional green space. Moore College of Art & Design is home to one such green fill success, thanks to the creative effort of Alexandria Imbesi, an Interior Architecture + Design student at Drexel University.

Imbesi’s re-design of Moore’s south cafeteria courtyard (at 20th and Cherry Streets) transformed the once vapid dining patio into a vegetated “oasis garden.” Wooden planters and benches made of reclaimed fencing line the rectangular space, punctuated by herbs, perennials, and ornamental grasses. The plants are watered with rainwater collected from a disconnected downspout within the courtyard, thereby adding to the design’s sustainable flare.

"I envision students, faculty, and staff using the courtyard as a place to gather and relax," says Imbesi. "Also, there are a variety of herbs planted throughout  the  garden that I hope the cafeteria will be able to use in their cooking."

Imbesi modeled the garden after her winning entry to network: Designing Green, an event and competition hosted by Moore in conjunction with Park(ing) Day Philadelphia. Both events celebrate small urban parks, or “parklets,” designed to attract urban dwellers to unsuspecting places. Imbesi described the competition design as self-sustaining, “in that it included a rain collector which watered the raised beds containing edible plants which could be used to feed the [parklet] chickens who in turn fertilized the plants.” As a result of the award, Moore invited Imbesi to adapt her design to the school’s courtyard. The one-day construction took place on June 1 with the help of Moore students.

Green fill makes Philadelphia more livable, one hidden space at a time.


Lauren Mandel MLA, ASLA is a project manager and rooftop agriculture specialist at Roofmeadow. She is a contributing writer for Urban Farm and Grid magazines and author of EAT UP | the inside scoop on rooftop agriculture (New Society Publishers, 2013). She blogs about rooftop agriculture at