Rain Yard

Rain Yard

by Stacy Levy

Rain Yard is an interactive artwork on permanent display in the Schuylkill Center’s Sensory Garden. This innovative artwork serves both a practical function—mitigating stormwater runoff from our building—and an interpretive function—highlighting the critical role that soil and plants play in the water cycle.

Through interdisciplinary collaboration with ecologists, engineers, designers, educators and horticulturists, this artwork was created.

View video by Ben Kalina

SCEE Land director, Sean Duffy digs the basins, in February 2013.

The Platform “wicket” took a series of weekends to install.

After the platform was attached, we had to draw a line to make the rounded edge.

Laying out the garden plan, with Stacy Levy

Volunteers planting the plants in the garden.



Water filling the lower spiral from the big red pump

In Rain Yard, we can see every part of the rain’s journey. But we don’t have to just look: we can also play with the pump and hoses to see how water filters over a variety of surfaces. Pump the pump handle and collected rainwater goes from the cistern through a hose and into the lower spiral. Follow the red pipe from the cistern to the pump, and create your own rain. 

Rain Yard – each trough holds a familiar surface – including meadow, lawn, gravel, asphalt and concrete

The plants below the platform grow in a basin, or bowl, 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.


Rain Yard – in its entirety

The openwork platform allows rain to filter down, plants to grow up, and people to hover in between. The plants in the garden were carefully selected. They are all native to the area, and include goldenrod, aster, cardinal flower, blue flag iris, and rushes, grasses and ferns.

Rain Yard is meant to engage and educate. Along with the installation is an engaging graphic book about water, stormwater runoff, and information about the project.

Rain Yard Book

Artist statement

Rain Yard is a collaboration with the rain. It captures the rain from the roof and leads the rain to a planted place to soak into the ground. Rain needs time and space to soak in, but in most of our built world, we do not give any space for the rain to act like rain—instead we pipe it away. This artwork is making a home for the rain.

My work is about making metaphors for people to understand how nature works. I always hope my pieces will give someone a new avenue to understand something about nature. I think that everyone deserves a re-explanation of the everyday workings of the world. In some of my work, art can be an important new way to fix things that are not working well on a site. Rain Yard is trying to fix a rainwater issue in an artful way. An engineer might fix a rainwater problem one way, and a landscape gardener would do it another way. I have tried to take all of those perspectives and to solve the problem while making an intriguing spatial and visual experience out of the solution.

About the artist

Stacy Levy is an artist who works with natural processes of the surrounding nature. She received a BA at Yale (1984) where she majored in sculpture with a minor in forestry. This combination of art and nature has remained entwined throughout her path as an artist. Stacy co-founded Sere Ltd., a design firm specializing in native landscape restoration for municipal, corporate and private landscapes across the mid-Atlantic region. The firm works to bring the architecture of a healthy ecosystem back to disturbed forest landscapes. In 1988, Levy attended Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and earned an MFA from Tyler School of Art, Temple University (1991) while working as a forester. The combination of forestry and art has continued to inform her practice.

For more of Stacy’s work, visit: http://www.stacylevy.com.

Rain yard was made possible by generous support from Arcelor Mittal, Johnson & Johnson, Penn Engineering, Sherwin Williams and the National Endowment for the Arts.