"Every time the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education gets 1 inch of rain, Stacy Levy’s artwork Rain Yard captures and slows over 3,000 gallons of water. With the average of 40 inches of rain Philadelphia gets per year, it captures and slows nearly 100,000 gallons." For more, click here.


Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


Painted steel, galvanized troughs, excavated soil, native plants 

75 feet long x 55 feet wide x 20 feet tall

Supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, ArcelorMittal, Rees Construction, Sherwin-Williams,

Johnson & Johnson, and many hardworking volunteers

Rain Yard creates a “bunk bed” for nature and people: rain spreads out below the mesh platform while people walk and explore at the surface. This space allows visitors to get hands-on and have fun with rainwater drainage. If rain could have its way, it would flow across the landscape, and take its time soaking into the soil. People have trouble living with the sogginess of rain’s presence and channel rain into narrow pipes and drains to keep the landscape dry.

Rain Yard is a reversal of this “people everywhere, rain in narrow spaces” idea. Here you walk only on the steel catwalk, while the rain spreads out into the garden beneath your feet and travels deep into the ground.

Blue spiraling gutters carry rainwater from a major roof drain down into the rain garden. There, the water can slowly soak into the soil providing moisture to the plants.

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 rainfall. The basin holds the rainwater long enough for the plants and ground to soak it up.

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

The blue steel platform becomes an outdoor classroom that allows kids to hover over nature, conduct experiments, and investigate how plants grow.

Galvanized basins are filled with different types of materials that are typical in the urban landscape: asphalt, gravel, concrete, lawn, and meadow. Kids can experiment with how water responds to these different surfaces, and learn about the science of run-off and infiltration.

Many corporate volunteers helped plant the basins with native species. Each plant type was carefully chosen for the wet-dry gradient of the rain garden.  

On the wall, a wind-driven spiral shows the connection between prevailing winds and rainy weather.

A winter shot captures the precipitation’s frozen motion in the blue steel gutters.