Learning Campus Garden


When the new Learning Campus garden opens, the senses will be engaged and intrigued at every step, at every glance: a circle of evergreen trees will provide a fragrant, intimate outdoor classroom; a little stream with big boulders will invite little ones to play; the flowering garden will be a quiet place to mediate or take a deep breath.

All this and more are part of Mikyoung Kim's designs for the Campus garden, which will take shape when fundraising is complete. Kim, an award-winning international landscape architect based in Boston, is excited about working with the Chicago Botanic Garden. "It's like an artist having a painting in the Museum of Modern Art," she said. "This Garden project represents the future of learning environments for kids."

Much-beloved features of the current outdoor learning classroom—such as the long Willow Tunnel and intimate Discovery Rooms sheltered within thickets of trees—will provide gathering, play, and teaching spaces throughout the seasons.

New features will include a series of multisensory gardens and a stream that will loop around the lower floodplain, creating an experience that transforms throughout the seasons. The Education Center's plaza will overlook a great lawn that slopes into a natural amphitheater and includes a meadow. Wide, tree-shaded paths will include special wheelchair viewing spots.

Besides school programs, with its 800-person capacity, the Campus garden is expected to draw crowds for harvest and kite festivals, honey-refining or beeswax candle-making activities, and other programs.

The Campus garden is one of two new display gardens in the planning stages. The other one is the Kris Jarantoski Campus Garden, designed by Belgian landscape architect Peter Wirtz, on the Garden's south end.

When the Garden selected Kim and Wirtz to design the two new gardens during the Garden's 40th year in 2012, President and CEO Sophia Shaw had this to say: "I am elated to be continuing the Garden's tradition of working with landscape architects of the highest caliber. As we celebrate the Garden's 40th anniversary, we look back to the history of the Chicago Horticultural Society, founded in 1890, and at the birth of Chicago architecture and urban planning, including landscape design. We embrace our history and the history of Chicago, and honor that tradition with the selection of these outstanding landscape architects."