Theses (Historic Preservation)

Document Type

Thesis or dissertation

Date of this Version



Suggested Citation:

Hiller, Peter (2017). Balancing Past and Present: Reevaluating Community Murals and Existing Practices. (Masters Thesis). University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA.


Since 2000, many of Philadelphia’s failing, mid-century, public housing towers have been demolished and replaced with low-rise, mixed-income developments that successfully integrate low-income—and potentially homeless—families and individuals into the community. Many Philadelphians, however, are still without a home, are in need, and are out of place. Furthermore, in the last decade, over thirty of Philadelphia’s historic schools have been shut down and vacated due to cuts to the school district budget, declining enrollment, and district politics; some of these entities, however, have consolidated or moved to new state-of-the-art buildings that serve them better, leaving the old structures vacant, obsolete, and also ‘out of place’: displaced from their original contexts by the passage of time, without a home in the present.

There is a need for more public housing, and there are resources in these vacant buildings. Abandoning the public housing typology of the 1950s and applying a New Urbanist plan, vacant schools can be transformed into mixed income housing. Through an investigation of the concept of home, an examination of permanent supportive housing, along with case studies of adapted school buildings and a proposal for the former George W. Childs Elementary, this thesis seeks to answer whether an obsolete historic Philadelphia school can provide successful permanent supportive housing for the homeless—two entities that are ‘out of place,’ but are two urban issues that can potentially solve each other.


adaptive reuse, vacancy, SDP, affordance, obsolescence



Date Posted: 26 May 2017