Plymouth Meeting Friends School Bio Swale

Plymouth Meeting: Gathering Terrace & BioSwale

The Plymouth Monthly Meeting envisioned a future where they could meet outdoors at their historic meeting house (1708). They contacted SED Design to help them realize this vision, and Seiler+Drury Architecture to provide a new doorway to the space. Working closely with this actively engaged and energetic group of people, we created an outdoor terrace that subtly blends with the historic meeting house and that provides ample space for the Monthly Meeting’s program. The terrace wall at seat height offers meeting space on the lower lawn while the terrace design allows for various meeting configurations and also incorporates benches. Using ramps, stairs and new walkways, the design solves grading/elevation issues while allowing accessibility from the new doorway and the surrounding landscape. The design provides native planting areas and incorporates lighting to highlight the space beautifully in the evenings.

At the same time, the Plymouth Monthly Meeting was experiencing drainage issues in the area where the new terrace was to be located. Rooftop stormwater had not previously been comprehensively managed. Between the new terrace area and its natural stormwater outlet, the Plymouth Meeting Friends School’s outdoor basketball court and play area is located. Beyond this area, a forgotten and eroded drainage ditch had been carrying the combined runoff through the school’s landscape.

There was a real opportunity for a return to nature’s balance and beauty here, in the domain of the Plymouth Meeting Friends School’s children. After studying the possibilities and the stormwater volumes, SED Design proposed removing an old hedge and metal fence to make way for a sinuous, riverrock-lined “stream.” The stream incorporates a series of check dams to slow the velocity of stormwater during large rain events. It also incorporates rocks and boulders of various sizes to lend natural beauty and to pique the curiosity of young minds. A new headwater wall at seat height provides surface stormwater pass-through during rain and, when it’s dry, a place to rest while enjoying this new area.

In working together with the Plymouth Monthly Meeting, the Plymouth Meeting Friends School and Seiler+Drury Architecture, the vision of a subtly beautiful terrace for meetings and a return to more naturally managed stormwater has been realized.