If rain could have its way, it would go everywhere, just as people are permitted to meander across the landscape according to their whims. People, however, prefer to force rain into narrow, specific spaces. Rain Yard is a reversal of the “people everywhere, rain in narrow spaces” paradigm, as a rain garden and outdoor classroom for the roof drainage at the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education. It gives rain license to roam, while it confines people to a path designed to enhance their experience of rain’s many functions in the environment. Here people walk only on the steel catwalk, while the rain spreads out into the garden below.
Blue spiraling gutters carry rainwater from a major roof drain into the rain garden. There, the water can slowly soak into the soil, providing moisture to the plants. The openwork platform allows rain to filter down, plants to grow up, and people to hover in between. The plants below the platform grow in a basin, dug into the ground. The size of the basin was calculated to hold the water that comes off the roof in a typical heavy rain fall. The basin holds the rainwater long enough for the plants and ground to soak it up. The plants in the garden were carefully selected to tolerate both wet and dry conditions and are all native to the area.
Rain Yard gives people a new vantage to experience rain and to understand what rain needs. BMPs can be effective and fun if they can also be spaces where people can be directly involved with the passage of rain. Taking design into account while making a BMP is essential and educational.
Watershed: Schuylkill River
National Endowment for the Arts
Stacy Levy and Christina Catanese, Director of Environmental Art
The Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education
8480 Hagy’s Mill Road
Philadelphia, PA 19128