Water Lab is dedicated to a widely shared goal of restoring the role of water in cities, where water has historically been abused, neglected and discarded. Our philosophical and creative approach is to transform water from a system that is overly engineered and controlled, to water designed as an element that characterizes, hydrates and regenerates the city at all scales for all people. 

We use design thinking to disrupt and re-design 19th-and-20th century urban conditions, with a particular focus on old, outdated systems of pavement. Our projects locate opportunities to redesign the surface of the city to capture, absorb and infiltrate rain where it falls, keeping it within the Great Lakes Basin watershed. To do this, we identify opportunities for integrated, serial design projects--such as depaving design, water gardens, productive landscapes and green infrastructure approaches--that re-introduces rainwater design as a vital part of the urban, ecological, public realm. 

Our design research integrates multiple disciplinary perspectives and knowledge. Although landscape architecture principles and practices ground our central approach, our work is enlightened, informed and dependent on knowledge within hydro-geology, site modeling and performance, new materialism, environmental humanities and conceptual art. We bring multiple viewpoints, vocabularies and voices to the 'water table'. 

We're currently focused on these opportunities in the urbanized landscapes of the Great Lakes Basin, such as Chicago, where rust-belt conditions, shifting populations, changing economies, glaciated landscapes and the largest freshwater source in North America collectively create a critical design territory for water.

Mary Pat is a Co-chair for the FRESH WATER design symposium, to be held at University of Illinois in September 2018. The symposium will host keynotes, panels and conversations on themes of integrated, inter-disciplinary design needs across the major inland water territories of North America. Please attend or submit an abstract for presentation or exhibition: 


Abstracts due January 15, 2018






Mary Pat McGuire is a Registered Landscape Architect and Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture at the University of Illinois.

Currently focused on the water territory of Chicago and the Great Lakes, her research and teaching focus on the reconfiguration of under-performing urban surfaces as landscape infrastructure for water. Her academic approach is grounded by over a decade of professional landscape architecture experience in California and Chicago. 

McGuire has a BA in International Political Economic Theory from William & Mary, a Master in Landscape Architecture from the University of Virginia, and a Certificate in Sustainability Management from the University of Chicago. She has received a National EPA Research Award, twice served as a Research Fellow with the Landscape Architecture Foundation, and named an inaugural Design Research Fellow in the College of Fine & Applied Arts (FAA) at the University of Illinois. Her water design research is supported by the Wright Ingraham Institute, College of Fine & Applied Arts, Campus Research Board, and a Wadsworth Grant.  

For further information or to collaborate on a project, please contact Mary Pat at chicagowaterlab@gmail.com