The vision for Annunciation Byzantine Catholic Parish is that of a church in a natural environment – a living land that grows with the people who care for it and love it.

For the land that you are to enter and occupy is not like the land of Egypt from which you have come, where you would sow your seed and then water it by hand, as in a vegetable garden. No, the land into which you are crossing for conquest is a land of hills and valleys that drinks in rain from the heavens, a land which the LORD, your God, looks after; his eyes are upon it continually from the beginning of the year to the end. If, then, you truly heed my commandments … I will give the seasonal rain to your land, the early rain and the late rain, that you may have your grain, wine and oil to gather in; and I will bring forth the grass in your fields for your animals. Deuteronomy 11 (New American Bible, 1970)


Chicago Botanic Garden, Glencoe, IL

Fortunately, water is beginning to be recognized as one of the key issues for the future of our world. It is clear that naturally available water supplies are finite, pollution is widespread, and water plays an essential and complex role in the sustenance of our lives. A number of innovative, sustainable technologies and approaches have been developed that treat water more respectfully in our urban environments. For instance, green roofs can reduce runoff by up to 80% and provide healthful open space in our cities. Permeable paving in parking lots is replacing impervious surfaces, which reduces run-off significantly. Integrated stormwater management allows water to rest and infiltrate into the soil. Vegetated swales and other plant systems are being used to remove the pollution that rain washes off our streets. When used properly, sustainable water resource management can combine aesthetics and technological transparency to make a significant “green” space contribution to our urban environments.

“Green” Practices

An essential and integrated aspect of the plan is the use of sustainable practices in the church’s ongoing design, construction, and daily operations. By showcasing innovative stormwater management, energy conservation, and environmental stewardship techniques such as cleansing biotopes, green roofs, permeable paving, rainwater recycling systems, photovoltaics, geothermal systems, and habitat restoration, Annunciation Parish will be able to demonstrate and promote a constant striving for coexistence with the planet, rather than the domination of it.

Reconnect people with the native landscapes.

These “green” approaches will be manifested in the landscapes, structures, and facilities of Annunciation Parish in a variety of ways. For example, rainwater will be collected and used to run water features, irrigation, and natural systems replenishment, which will virtually eliminate the negative impact of surface water run-off and transform water into an amenity. Over time, the energy used at Annunciation Parish will be generated from renewable sources such as wind and the sun. This will save money and lessen the dependence on diminishing non-renewable energy resources. The materials and techniques used in the establishment and care of the gardens and open space will be selected for their “green” characteristics. Annunciation Parish will become an example of sustainable living and truly honoring God through the proper stewardship of the resources of they are blessed with.

A Natural Setting

Within this Landscape Master Plan, there is a new organization of spaces, or contemplation gardens. Throughout the property, nestled within the native ecosystems, contemplation gardens will give churchgoers a place to rest, contemplate, or worship at various Byzantine religious icons, or just walk the trails and enjoy nature firsthand. The interaction of these landscapes, gardens, plazas, trails, prairies, and wetlands will allow for individual interpretation of the relationship all people have had with the outdoors since the beginning of time. It is also more than a strategy for sustainable water management within an urban environment. It presents a vision for a new type of dialogue between people, their faith, and the Eden given to us from God. It is a new model for sustainability, where the seeds of peace can be sown, nurtured, and harvested.


Father Tom discusses his vision with the team.

The Process

In order to accomplish this vision, the parish decided to take a comprehensive look at their entire property. They retained Conservation Design Forum to research and prepare this Landscape Master Plan to guide the implementation of a sustainable vision for the parish, while serving as an educational demonstration to all who visit or attend the church. This process began with the recognition of an adjacent, overlooked detention basin that Father Tom, like no one else, saw as an opportunity. The process continued with a series of workshops and discussions with parish members, to provide critical input toward the vision. The process will continue as the vision becomes a reality…

Read more… The Master Plan