UW Today

October 26, 2011

New courtyard and rain garden created behind Community Design Center

At first glance, the new courtyard behind the Community Design Center looks like a simple square with benches. Note, however, the rain garden on the perimeter.

Finished recently, the courtyard includes five interconnected plant beds fed from pipes that collect water from the roof of the center.

Rain gardens make sense because they capture, cleanse and slow storm water entering the drainage system, said UW landscape architect Kristine Kenney.

Kalyn Marab, a student in an introduction to landscape architecture class, prepares a sketch in the new Community Design courtyard.

Kalyn Marab, a student in an introduction to landscape architecture class, prepares a sketch in the new Community Design courtyard.Mary Levin

Some years ago, the courtyard was the Garden of Eatin, designed and built by UW landscape architecture students in a studio course. However, maintenance eventually became a problem, as did the gardens use by homeless people, so it made sense to create a new, more usable space, something that might include appeal to students and professors using the center. The Capital Projects Office, working with SvR Design, a landscape architecture and civil engineering firm in Seattle, came up with a 40-by-60-foot courtyard punctuated by a rain garden and informal seating.

Entered via a door on the southwest side of the Community Design Center, the courtyard is planted with several kinds of berry plants – bog blueberries, service berries – as well as common camas, a white birch tree and various kinds of groundcover. The beds and pipe system are designed so that gravity directs water through a system of channels to each bed.

“This is a cool place. I love to do my work in an outside classroom,” said student Kalyn Marab as she worked on a sketch for a landscape architecture class.

By the way, the new molecular engineering building on Stevens Way will have two rain gardens, one in the newly revamped courtyard and another just south of the building entrance on Stevens Way.