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American Society of Landscape Architects

 

August 2008 Issue

Learning from Artful Rainwater Design
Landscape architects can reach out directly to visitors or nudge them down a path of discovery.

By Eliza Pennypacker, ASLA, and Stuart P. Echols, ASL

Learning from Artful Rainwater Design

In these environmentally conscious times, the following statements are practically axioms for landscape architectural design:

Rainwater must be considered a resource, not a waste product.

Stormwater is most effectively managed on site at the source.

Taken together, these two ideas suggest an inspiring approach to stormwater management: on-site treatment where rain is celebrated as a resource—not just managed, but thoughtfully treated as a landscape amenity providing a rich experience for users. We call this approach “artful rainwater design.”

In an earlier article (see “Art for Rain’s Sake,” Landscape Architecture, September 2006) we proposed that study of award-winning projects can provide helpful information for landscape architects interested in undertaking artful rainwater design (ARD). Since 2005, we have engaged in case studies of 20 projects across the United States that vary in size, type, and design strategy. This study has helped us identify a range of “amenity goals” achievable through ARD.

An on-site stormwater management system can be an engaging opportunity to educate people about rainwater issues from promoting awareness of stormwater best management practices strategies to the site’s historical water condition. Many people don’t understand the hydrological cycle, the usefulness of wetlands, the role of plants in cleaning water, and the desirability of infiltration. Through ARD landscape architects also have the opportunity to help the public realize the value of nontraditional landscape designs that effectively address rainwater quantity and quality—for example, native plants in naturalized bioswale designs.

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