Ridge and Valley

Submitted by Stacy Levy

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Client: H.O Smith Botanic Gardens at the Arboretum at Penn State

Location: University Park, PA, United States

Completion date: 2009

Artwork budget: $250,000

Project Team

Artist

Stacy Levy

Stacy Levy

Landscape Architect

MTR Landscape Architects

MTR Landscape Architects

Architect

Overland Architects

Overland Architects

Overview

 The local Spring Creek Watershed of the Ridge and Valley Region is recreated in a 924 square foot bluestone terrace, punctuated by three long boulder ‘ridges’ that rise from the terrace and create seating walls. All of the local streams, and waterways are depicted with runnels carved 1/4 inch deep into the stone. When it is dry, this terrace is a scale map of the geology and watershed of this area.  But when it rains, the Visitors Pavilion roof drains onto the terrace and the rainfall flows across the carved waterways, creating a watershed in miniature.

Goals

Ridge and Valley’s design needed to find a constructive use for the rain water that flows off of the Arboretum’s Visitor Pavilion. The artwork makes this storm water into an asset rather than a problem by creating a functional rain conveyance that delivers the rain water from the roof of the visitors pavilion to the infiltration area on the site. Integrating the art into the architecture and the landscape made a space for people and for rain. The art allowed the building to be responsible for “drinking its own rainwater” rather than putting it into a drain. The artwork bridges the built space of the pavilion and the landscaped areas of the arboretum with an outdoor room that teaches people about the waterways running near the very ground they are standing on, and gives visitors a way to find their watershed address in the map of the county.

Process

To create a new way of making storm water educational and delightful, I worked closely with landscape architects OTR and Overland Architects to harness the rainwater from the Pavilion's roof. We explored different ways to pipe the rainwater into the Water Map and convey the overall storm water infiltration system. By guiding the rainwater into certain areas, we were able to integrate the building’s structure into the art itself.