Ridge and Valley at the Penn State Arboretum Penn State Arboretum Overlook Pavilion, Park Avenue and Bigler Road • University Park, Pennsylvania
Safely move, control, contain rainwater
Capture rain for reuse (of all kinds, human and natural, from irrigation and toilet flushing to groundwater recharge)
The basic stormwater management concept at the Ridge and Valley is capture, convey, cleanse, and infiltrate. Rain falling on the pavilion is collected and channeled through a scupper that protrudes from the roof. During small rain events, rain drips from the scupper onto river pebbles, then flows to the bluestone map; in large events, rain arcs from the scupper to fall directly onto the map, where all rivers and streams in the watershed are incised, each as a ¼-inch-deep runnel, transforming the map during small rain events into the watershed in miniature. The whole terrace is gently sloped to make the rain follow the watershed’s configuration. As the rain leaves Bald Eagle Creek, the final tributary on the map, it flows into an adjacent hidden inlet, where the rainwater is piped about 750 feet to a “wet meadow” infiltration basin that connects to Penn State’s well fields.
This beautiful work of environmental art presents a resounding celebration of rain in a public spot that draws visitors from destination as close as the adjacent neighborhood and as far as across the state. As the artist, Stacy Levy, puts it, “This project gives a role to the rain: to activate the watershed map and make the terrace an interesting place.” She adds, “The artwork is both a placemaking object and an engineering system; and it gives visitors a way to celebrate the hydrologic cycle.” Levy also suggests that a celebration of rain is a natural for an arboretum; in her words, “An arboretum is really as much about its weather as its plants. The rainfall dictates what grows in a particular place, so the presence of rain needs to be featured in a compelling way. This project makes the rain a piece of the landscape, and connects the rain to the watershed. Also, with students coming from many other regions, it seemed an essential moment to introduce people to the watershed that Penn State inhabits.”