With a focus on the future and sustainability, the Pulitzer Arts Foundation is turning the lot across the street from their gallery into a rain garden. They’ve commissioned Studio Land Arts to construct the multilevel landscape in an endeavor which combines an environmentally concerned art practice with contractual work.
Rain gardens help the environment by catching a portion of rain runoff from non-permeable surfaces, such as roofs or concrete, and filtering it into a space designed to soak up excess water with engineered soil layers and moisture friendly plants. They lessen the burden on sewer systems and local waterways while filtering out pollutants, help control localized flooding, and keep the mosquito population down. Pulitzer’s new rain garden will capture a quarter of the runoff from a neighboring parking lot.
Park-Like’s design also focuses on creating a native plant installation and providing a new public space. Chris Carl, the founder of Studio Land Arts, describes it as an “Infrastructure for people, but also biodiversity in an urban setting.” Studio Land Arts cultivates all their native plants in Granite City and while only partially built, the area has already attracted a fair amount of butterflies, bees, and other insects. The plants used have been selected based on water tolerance, but also with aesthetic purposes in mind. The design accounts for plant height, color, and even when each plant will bloom.
Studio Land Arts not only designed the space, but have been building it themselves which allows for a unique adaptability. “There are so many unknowns when you’re starting a project, especially when you’re digging into the ground,” Carl says. “When you start to dig, then reality hits which for us meant hitting multiple buildings.” The team has taken obstacles such as these in stride, adapting to the situation by using the rubble they’ve unearthed in their design. They’ve also had to work with above average rain this year, which delayed construction. Carl’s quick to point out the upside to such obstacles. “We really got to see first hand, multiple times, how water works on this site. So we can see where it flows. We can see where we need to make adjustments.”
Carl earned his Masters in Landscape Architecture from the University of Illinois in 2014, and afterwards became involved in a rainscaping small grants program offered by the Missouri Botanical Garden and the Metropolitan Sewer District.
Construction on Park-Like will continue until the spring of 2020 with a celebratory opening likely in May.