how do you get a building and landscape to work together as a water-cleaning machine?


The Stroud Water Research Center has a 50+ year history of groundbreaking research on the preservation and restoration of freshwater ecosystems. The River Continuum Concept, formulated within its walls, established that to understand streams and rivers, you must understand them as a whole watershed, not just any single moment along with the flow. This concept revolutionized the way these systems are studied and has had a huge impact on how we approach projects, looking not only at single sites, but the many factors around and upstream of the site – today, in the past, and the projected future. When conceptualizing their new education building, Stroud wanted to showcase this incredible history, show the public how they work, and put what they are studying out on display.

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Andropogon teamed with M2 Architecture and Meliora Design to create a truly integrated design, melding indoor and outdoor programs, spaces, and operational systems, thinking about the site from the scale of the watershed down to the detailing of runnels and downspouts. Determined to “get the water right,” the team thought of the project as a series of water-focused classrooms and laboratories, both inside and out, where the building and landscape work together, mimicking the earth’s natural hydrological cycle and putting the study of that cycle out on public display. It’s a place to work, research, test ideas, teach, and learn. And it was an opportunity for us to work with an incredible team to do the same.

The landscape close to the building manages stormwater using native plant gardens and grows successively wilder as the visitor moves out into the landscape. First, past managed meadows, streams, and ponds, then to restored forest edges and experimental agricultural fields, and finally down into the heavily revegetated woodland trails and the edges of the White Clay Creek. All pieces of this landscape sequence work together toward the overall goal of cleaning and slowing the stormwater headed toward the creek, but each, on its own, also serves as an educational opportunity for the public, and a place to truly test and measure their performance and contribution to the function of the whole.


  • Location: Avondale, PA
  • Size: 8 acres
  • Role: Landscape Architect of Record
  • Services: Site Design – Conceptual Design through Completion