The Beast

The Beast
by Catherine Wiley

I come from the mountains
and head for the valley
I tumble I churn
I dilly and dally

I play with the children
and refresh your trees
My work's never done
yet I gather no fees

I swim in your sewers
It's not easy for me
It's so cramped and so dirty
I want to break free!
So, I smash and I thrash
against sewer walls
I bite and I gnash
'till the whole sewer falls

I seep in the earth
and tear out your roads
your homes and your schools
and all your abodes

I'll look for some wetlands
they clean me so well
remove from me debris
and decrease my smell


Here I spy with keenest eye
a basin by the school
a place where I can stay and play
It's like the golden rule

Ne'er again will you need to fear
destruction of my toil
for up above the ground you see
I'm kept out from your soil

Trail me through the drawings enclosed
I'm elusive yet I'm here
I change my form for every space
and season of the year

The water detention/ water play area is located within existing street right of ways on Aspen street adjacent to Sulzberger school on the north side and on 47th street perpendicular to this. In the proposed study, 47th street is developed into a parking lot past its intersection with brown street as is the small spur of Folsom street after its intersection with Markoe. Aspen between 47th and 48th is utilized completely for water retention and therefore blocked off. The water play area is located adjacent to the mythical forest and ties in physically and ideologically with this nursery. Water is recycled here east into the nursery via recharge channels for irrigating the trees. Stone gullies transport surface rainwater into the retention basin from adjacent 48th street, Aspen from 48th west 300', 47th street between Brown and Fairmount, Folsom and Meredith streets as well as the rooftops of Sulzberger school and adjacent residential structures. From a storm depositing 1" of rain on west Philadelphia, 15,500 cubic feet of water would be channeled to the detention basin. Filled with this much water, the basin would appear well utilized. However, the basin is actually designed to accommodate up to 38,700 cubic feet or 2.5 inches channeled from the immediate Sulzberger vicinity

Water Detention

Water Detention Basin

The retention area performs preliminary purification of rainwater through a series of wetlands. Wetlands utilize the natural processes of the landscape. They are an effective means of soil and water filtering. Plants and microorganisms clean the environment in a less energy intensive way than mechanical treatment. These wetlands slow the movement of water, causing suspended solids, nutrients, bacteria and trace elements to descend. They allow for the absorption of their plants in open areas and for decomposition in shady spots. Designed to be educational as well as functional, this detention basin includes four separate types of wetlands: swamp (woody wetland), bog (herbaceous/woody, acidic wetland), marsh (grass wetland) and a herbaceous water garden. Because these wetlands have decidedly different characters in their requirements and plant materials, they offer students an opportunity to observe and perform experiments on plant growth in varying pH and water levels. This area will be maintained by the Sulzberger Middle School classes and science club.

Boardwalk & Weir Details

Stepped weirs within the retention basin re-aerate the water between stages of cleaning. Detailed here, they also accommodate the changing elevation.

Detention Pond Sections

Educational Fun

Perspective of Waterspouts & Measuring Wall

Water Play

Hydrant fountain & Kids

Sculpture: Teasing With Water

Sculpture: Washing With Water

Sculpture Catching Water

Sculpture: Catching The Beast

Sculpture: Running Through Water

Sculpture: Tasting Water

Sculpture: Discovering Aquatic Life

Sculpture: Touching Water

The second major area of this proposal uses water play as its theme. It helps concentrate any fresh water provided by the city for the task. Its first component is a fountain which starts at the north end of the property. Three oversized fire hydrants (not to be confused with municipal ones!) shoot large streams of water from their front outlets. From there, the water rushes along a very wide (17') and shallow (2") channel featuring three differently textured pavements. These pavements are separated by bands of concrete and will cause variations in the surface patterns of the water. The fountain is to be an amusement when the water is turned on and aesthetically sculptural when it's off.

Have you guessed what beast I am?
Have you looked to see?
I'm the river, the fountains,
the ponds and the lakes
I'm water, yes that's me

Beast Puddle

To Catherine's Project page
To My Gallery

Back to Restoring Waters