Prassas Landscape Studio
Roscoe Village Retreat; Chicago, Illinois 

Client: Andrew & Lisa Coburn
Contractors: Krugel Cobbles, Inc.; The Garden Consultants, Inc.; Stonebridge Group
Consultant: Lightscape, Inc.
Category: Design - Residential

Solving an ongoing flooding issue led to a luxurious Japanese-inspired garden, a fresh livable space for the home owners. When the new owners purchased this Roscoe Village row house, the entire back yard had been completely paved over with concrete pavers. Not only was the space unattractive, but it also led to a severe drainage problem. With nowhere to go during heavy storms, rain water from the roof and adjacent alleyway would make its way into the rear yard, eventually flooding the finished basement.


With the use of water so prevalent in Japanese gardens, the landscape architect set out to design a landscape that solved the drainage issue within a lush garden rather than costly infrastructure. The multi-pronged approach began with the removal of most of the pavers. The positive effect of the pavers removal was seen almost immediately, when rain water from a large storm event quickly infiltrated. The downspout was re-routed to inter-connected rain barrels, in turn creating a sustainable water source for the owner's potted plants. Any overflow runs through an ephemeral bamboo fountain which spills out over rocks that rest on an underground cistern. Finally, a rain garden of a depressed Japanese river pebbles will hold a substantial amount of rainwater until it can percolate back into the earth.

The owner's existing deck was relatively new but the details were heavy and blocked garden views. Through the use of bamboo, the deck was renovated to provide a cohesive design and the spacing of the bamboo was creatively used to control views and light. To give structure and enhanced functionality, the landscape palette is dominated by plants rich in texture and form, a key element of Japanese garden design.

Through the creative use of sustainable stormwater solutions and a rich landscape design, this small urban space was transformed into a garden oasis. In fact, while the last couple of years have seen some of the heaviest storms in most locals' memory, the garden's stormwater techniques have embraced them with grace.