This watershed shaped garden engages the destructive power
of plant roots to break down the industrial landscape.


Washington Avenue Green, Pier 53 on the Delaware River, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


Cored concrete, removed asphalt, soil, native paints

1,200 square feet; overall site is 700 feet x 450 feet

In collaboration with Biohabitats, Inc.

Supported by the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation

This project harnesses freeze/thaw cycles and the destructive power of plant roots to break down remnant industrial hardscape in Washington Avenue Green, the first in a series of parks planned for the bikeway running along Philadelphia’s side of the Delaware River. 


The site’s design links economic and ecological efficiency. While mechanical removal of the entire concrete and asphalt surface would have exhausted the project’s budget, here the natural processes were orchestrated to do the work of decaying the landscape over time. 

The site prevents runoff from entering the Delaware River by capitalizing on the ability of plants to filter rainwater slowly. Planted in a branching, tributary pattern running toward the river, Dendritic Decay Garden functions as a rain garden and visually depicts the area’s watershed.

This project represents one of the first steps toward restoring the shoulders of the Delaware, bringing back the verdant biodiversity destroyed by industrialization along the riverbank.

Flowering native perennials thrive in the park where their roots are protected from competition with small slabs of concrete.

These glass insets are dry reminders of the drops of rain that facilitate the plant’s growth.

By harnessing the power of the rain, this garden adds greenery and native life to the otherwise industrial and concrete setting.

The Dendric Decay Garden finds a way to improve the site over time.

The garden provides a space where children and adults alike can wonder at the power of plants as they break through the surface of the concrete.