In 2021 the PHS Philadelphia Flower Show, a globally recognized indoor event, made a bold decision to change the format of the Show and move outdoors for the first time in its 193-year history in response to COVID-19 uncertainties and concerns.
One of few major events to be produced in 2021 – not just in Philadelphia but in the nation — this location change allowed the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (the producers) a chance to re-imagine this beloved event in every way, using landscape architecture as the foundation for how guests would interact with this historic event in a never-before-seen outdoor format.
PHS was tasked with erecting infrastructure and designed elements in a short time frame to accommodate the Flower Show’s public 10-day event. PHS designers and its cohort of invited landscape architects and designers were able to see the Flower Show in a whole new light and experience the beautiful vistas and rolling landscape of FDR Park, a historic landmark located in South Philadelphia as the new outdoor home for the event. This inspiring venue contributed to the splendor that the Flower Show is known for and gave designers a new place to articulate their vision for an outdoor event. In its new location, the Show spanned 15 acres of the park’s footprint, expanding in size to nearly 450,000 square feet of exhibits, activities, and open space, a 45% increase from previous Flower Shows held inside the Pennsylvania Convention Center.
This large 15-acre footprint was designed by PHS’s in house team which created the venue to house approximately 40 talented landscape architects and designers to showcase their artistic vision in 900-2,500 square feet garden spaces. This was in addition to the other landscape architecture elements to accommodate dozens of smaller garden spaces and interactions, food concessions, additional entertainment activations, shopping, and public space for recreation for the public.
Typically held in March, the Flower Show’s move to a new outdoor venue and later time of the year brought several challenges as PHS had to shift gears and build the Show from the ground up — with no existing event facilities to utilize in a City-owned park, the fluid health protocols being enacted by the city health department, the changing availability of staff, vendors, contractors, and volunteers, the 2021 Flower Show had an entirely new set of logistical challenges to work through.
The departure from the Show’s typical late winter timing allowed for a spectacular presentation of the nation’s most looked-to gardening and floral attraction. The early June dates — at the height of the gardening season — allowed new possibilities for guests to experience seasonal flora. With the new timing, outdoor location, design and layout, more shopping opportunities, and outdoor-centric add-on activities, guests enjoyed a safe, exciting experience for all ages. The 2021 Flower Show offered exceptional beauty, unique design elements, and an increased diversity of flowers and plants.
Venturing into unfamiliar territory and redesigning the foundation of the Flower Show proved to be a challenge but also a success, exceeding the ticket revenue goal by 13%. More importantly, the Show’s outdoor design format provided a unique, interesting, and beautiful avenue for friends and family to connect in person — many for the first time — since the start of the pandemic. Furthering the organization’s mission to build meaningful connections through the power of horticulture, the 2021 Philadelphia Flower Show offered the first opportunity during 2021 within a major metropolitan area to experience the collective healing power of community.
Role of the entrant in the project: Associate Director of Communications
Project location: FDR Park, 1500 Pattison Ave & S Broad St, Philadelphia, PA 19145
Design year: 2020
Year Built: 2021