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Smith Environmental Courtyard

Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Cleveland, OH

Water is a guiding theme for the design for the Smith Environmental Courtyard renovation. The design takes inspiration from the iconic natural landscapes of northeast Ohio, and from the Museum’s work to preserve miles of forested streams and wetlands that protect clean drinking water supplies for Cleveland residents. Initial conversations with Museum stakeholders resulted in the following goals for the renovation:

  • to provide a place of respite for Museum guests during their visit;
  • to provide a welcoming and functional place for events and gatherings;
  • to interpret the Museum’s work with natural areas and native plant conservation, and reflect its mission to inspire a passion for nature.

The courtyard was be designed to be beautiful in all seasons and all times of day. One of the most compelling features of the courtyard is a cascade water feature made of local Berea sandstone. At the center of the courtyard, the Watershed Court will provide a gathering space for up to 200 people while interpreting the flow patterns of the Cuyahoga River watershed in etched bluestone. A sinuous “stream” of blue and grey pavers explores the north end of the courtyard, arriving at an Overlook sunshade at the high point. Throughout the courtyard, plantings of native trees and a lush carpet of ferns, sedges and woodland wildflowers convey the importance of forests for stream health and water quality.