Chicago Botanic Garden selects landscape architects

Chicago Botanic Garden selects landscape architects

Peter Wirtz and Mikyoung Kim will each design a display garden.

January 2, 2013

GLENCOE, Ill. – After an international search, the Chicago Botanic Garden has selected landscape architects Peter Wirtz/Wirtz International and Mikyoung Kim/Mikyoung Kim Design to design two new display gardens at the 385-acre Glencoe campus. Wirtz will design the garden associated with the Greenhouse and Nursery Campus and Kim has been selected to design the Learning Campus garden. This is the first public botanic garden commission for both and is the first United States non-residential assignment for Belgium-based Wirtz.

These are the Chicago Botanic Garden’s first commissions for new display gardens since 2002, when the Garden hired Dan Kiley to design the Esplanade and the Crescent and 2008, when Doug Hoerr’s renovation transformed the Dwarf Conifer Garden. When realized, the new Wirtz and Kim landscapes will fulfill critical goals of the Garden’s ten-year strategic plan, “Keep Growing” (

Wirtz’s preliminary design of the Greenhouse and Nursery Campus garden calls for an intriguing curvilinear scheme of lush plantings, using trees and structures to create areas for shade-loving plants. A winding pattern of staggered low and high hedges, masses of shrubs, ornamental grass mounds, and an 8-foot tunnel-like arbor of crabapples will create volume. Hedges will create intimate, peaceful spaces and rooms or “pockets” to show off plants under evaluation for their adaptability to shade, framing views of the Garden’s Dixon Prairie while protecting plants from strong westerly winds. Arbors will also allow Garden scientists to evaluate vines. The Chicago Botanic Garden’s shade plant evaluation program began in 1982; Garden scientists and horticulturists study plants to determine which are best suited for midwestern gardens and those in similar climates. “The spirit of the Greenhouse and Nursery gardens will be determined by the systematic use of materials and forms. We are giving this relatively unknown part of the Garden a new soul and are creating a new destination on the Garden’s south campus for visitors to experience,” Wirtz said.
The new Wirtz-designed display garden is part of a larger capital project to develop a new state-of-the-art production greenhouse and nursery facility to replace 40-year-old buildings and to maintain the Garden’s high horticultural standards. Over 250,000 plants each year are cared for and cultivated by horticulturists and volunteers in the Garden’s greenhouses.

Kim’s preliminary plan calls for the Chicago Botanic Garden Learning Campus garden to be a gateway to nature for children and their families. “Environments for art and nature become a forum for the imagination and teach children about their place in the larger ecosystem, as well as help them understand the cultural world they will eventually shape—one that is evolving every hour, every day, every season,” Kim said. "The initial proposal includes a series of teaching environment and outdoor classrooms shaped by sustainable initiatives. The concept design includes a canopy walk, an apiary for an apple orchard and a series of multi-sensory gardens that encourage engagement and botanical learning."

The new Learning Campus will be the hub of the Garden’s education offerings and will feature a new 28,000-square-foot Education Center for year-round classes. The Campus already includes the Grunsfeld Children’s Growing Garden, designed by Scott Byron & Company and the Kleinman Family Cove, designed by Lisa Delplace of Oehme van Sweden & Associates; both of these compelling outdoor classrooms opened in 2012. The Learning Campus garden design calls for children to have direct engagement with plant life and the natural cycles of nature.

Wirtz and Kim will begin working with the Chicago Botanic Garden in January 2013 and will finalize schematic designs for the display gardens over the next year. The Garden is currently fundraising for the two new projects.