Posted tagged ‘green design’

A Visit to Chicago’s Lurie Garden

September 25, 2015

In late July, I made a short visit to some friends in Chicago whom I hadn’t seen in many years. High on my list of sights to take in were two iconic but very different gardens – the Chicago Botanic Garden about twenty miles north of the city, and the Lurie Garden, sited downtown on the south side of Millennium Park. Happily, I was able to work in a visit to both, but let’s take a look in this post at the award-winning Lurie Garden, built about ten years ago on top of the Lakefront Millennium parking garage – right, a parking garage – smack in the middle of downtown, next to the Chicago Art Institute and a stone’s throw from the famous “bean” sculpture.

Visible from the second floor of the new modern wing of the Art Institute, the 3-acre public ‘botanic garden’ adjoins a bandshell ‘headdress’ sculpture designed by Frank Gehry that anchors the Great Lawn, a public venue for concerts and other events. The garden is divided into ‘Light’ and ‘Dark’ Plates, separated by what is (somewhat preciously) called ‘the Seam,’ a boardwalk boundary between the two.

Lurie Garden

A view of the Lurie Garden’s Light and Dark Plates, separated by the Seam, from the modern wing of the Chicago Art Institute.

Two outer edges of most of the garden are visually enclosed by what is called the ‘Shoulder Hedge,’ taking its name from the Carl Sandberg poem which referred to Chicago as the “city of big shoulders.” The hedge is big indeed, fifteen feet high (there are metal girders that act as frame and guide for pruning) plantings of dark evergreens, designed to protect the lower perennial plantings from visitors leaving the Great Lawn after events there. When I visited, mid-summer plantings of ornamental grasses, Amsonia hubrechtii, coneflowers and daisies were in full bloom in the Light Plate area.

The Lurie Garden won the 2008 American Society of Landscape Architects General Design Award of Excellence, honoring the Seattle landscape architecture team of Gustafson Guthrie Nichol Ltd. and the planting genius of Piet Oudolf (who was responsible for the perennial planting design). The following description of the garden comes from the ASLA website:

Chicago built itself up from marshy origins and continues to rise ambitiously skyward. A refinement of nature and natural resources has accompanied Chicago’s willful development. Similarly, the site of the Lurie Garden has been built up over time. It has been elevated from wild shoreline, to railroad yard, to parking garage, to roof garden. Lurie Garden celebrates the exciting contrast between the past and present that lay within this site.

The strong grid layout of Chicago’s streets highlights striking physical features that are not orthogonal. Railways form sensuous braids that merge and swell through the grid. Angled roads radiate out of Chicago like crooked spokes from Grant Park’s location in the center of the city. The paths and other forms of the Lurie Garden, and their relationships to the formal grid structure of Grant Park, are inspired by these patterns and by the strong forms of Chicago’s bold, urban, and Midwestern landscape.

Although I visited in mid-summer, the garden’s website photographs demonstrate clearly the beauty of the landscape year-round. If you’re visiting downtown Chicago in the coming year, I urge you to stop by the Lurie Garden and experience its pleasures for yourself.

Inspiring Tah.Mah.Lah

October 19, 2012

One of the most inspiring sites we visited during this year’s annual APLD conference in the Bay Area was a home in the Portola Valley area, called Tah.Mah.Lah. I’d looked up what I could about it ahead of time and was intrigued by what I’d read – designed to be “the greenest custom home” in the United States, it is a net-zero, LEED Platinum certified project whose owners built a home and landscape designed to last 100+ years. We had more than an hour on site (a great improvement over some prior garden visits limited to 25 minutes or less, because of small sized projects and a packed itinerary), and I tried my best to capture some of the most interesting aspects of the house and landscape. (Among other things, I was delighted to see an installation by Patrick Dougherty, which the owners’ little girls have dubbed the “fairy castle.”)

Because there are so many photos, I’ve decided to present them in gallery format, to avoid endless scrolling for readers. The captions provide additional information about the project, but for more details, please visit the Tah.Mah.Lah website, which went live for the first time the day of our visit. Thanks and kudos to landscape architect Thomas Klope, for his inspired implementation of the owners’ vision, as well as to the owners and the builder – all of whom were on site when we visited, providing background, history, and answers to our many questions.


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