Christian Street Lagoon. It sounds like a place for teenage lovers. What it is actually is the birth of a two-year Queen Village art project to raise awareness about stormwater management and educate residents and passersby about how water travels under our streets and into our streams.
If you walk along the 300 block of Christian Street, you’ll see blue drops painted in swirls along the sidewalk, spilling into the street. Teal-green reflectors are posted along sewers eastward along Christian to illustrate the path of dirty rainwater to the Delaware River. Stacy Levy, renowned environmental artist and sculptor, a 1991 Tyler School of Art graduate, coordinated the creation of the project. Thermoplastic dots of various sizes were heated and community members helped apply them to the asphalt on the road to create a unique wateresque pattern designed to draw one’s attention downward.
“It’s the first step to think about water hitting the hardscape,” said Levy. “It gives people a sense of water in the street.”
When water falls on green surfaces, it’s naturally soaked up in stages. But in urban areas, rain water hits a lot of hard surfaces and drains into sewers that in turn drain the rainwater into the Delaware River all at once. This is a less healthy process than the spongelike filtration of rainwater.
“Part of the first step is understanding stormwater in the city,” said Levy. “The next step is solving the issue.” That means designing ways to slow down water and finding spaces for it to slow down.
The project is a result of a collaboration between the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) and Mural Arts as part of the PWD’s “Soak It Up, Philly!” design competition. Queen Village was one of three locations selected for design professionals to develop a state-of-the-art innovate stormwater management plans. The winner, Greening the Grid, envisioned connecting neighborhood blocks with small neighborhood parks, small parks within neighborhoods to larger parks, and larger neighborhood parks to other large parks across the city. It also envisioned improving the stormwater runoff along each street, which Levy’s project seeks to illuminate, by installing planters and refabricating corners. As the PWD continues its efforts with Green City, Clean Waters to make Philadelphia an international leader in stromwater management, we’ll continue to share the details of these projects, as these new improvement projects should improve quality of life in neighborhoods across the city.