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
In these environmentally conscious times, the following statements
are practically axioms for landscape architectural design:
Rainwater must be considered a resource, not a waste
Stormwater is most effectively managed on site at the
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
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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