GENERAL DESIGN: Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery
As prime design consultant of a multi-disciplinary team of seven companies, SmithGroupJJR planned and designed a major expansion of this relatively new national cemetery located on the site of the former Joliet Army Ammunition Facility. In addition to providing approximately 20,000 grave sites for Illinois area Veterans and their family members, the team developed designs to remedy maintenance and operational issues stemming from perched groundwater, repair infrastructure to address storm water management issues, and provide architectural and engineering upgrades to improve performance of existing buildings.
GENERAL DESIGN: Dorchester Art + Housing Collaborative
Originally conceived in 2011 and completed in 2014, the Dorchester Art + Housing Collaborative (DA+HC) is a unique community of mixed-income housing for artists, arts professionals, and those with a creative impulse located in the Greater Grand Crossing neighborhood. Led by Dorchester Artist, LLC – comprised of Theaster Gates, Chicago Housing Authority, the Rebuild Foundation, Brinshore Development - and working with Landon Bone Baker Architects, site design group, ltd. led the landscape architecture for the project. Once a 36-townhome public low-income housing development, the previously abandoned buildings were redeveloped through a collaborative design process to serve artists and community members with the intent of fostering dialogue and collaboration between them.
GENERAL DESIGN: Evanston Township High School Campus Improvements
Over the past five years 3D Design Studio has worked with the Evanston Township High School to plan and transform the school grounds into a beautiful, inspirational and welcoming environment, coming to be known more like a university campus appearance. The new campus image and identity has not only enhanced the visual, social and educational experience, but has given a great sense of pride to the students, faculty and alumni alike. The success of this transformation, combined with our unparalleled client service, has given 3D Design Studio the opportunity to work with the ETHS time and time again.
GENERAL DESIGN: Grant Park Skate Park
This highly successful multiuse space; public park, skate park, performance space, and sculpture park, has brought new life to the southern edge of Grant Park. The 2.5 acre project site was once the former location of the Central Station - an iconic Chicago train station that stood from 1893 to 1974. After its demolition, the site remained as a vacant and largely underutilized expanse of lawn – only occasionally used as a de facto dog run for residents of the neighboring high-rises. The Chicago Park District and the Grant Park Conservancy approached Altamanu to develop the space into a multi-use wheel friendly area and space for small performances and outdoor exhibitions.
GENERAL DESIGN: Hillshire Brands Roof Terrace
Hillshire Brands is a self-described “meat-centric” food solutions company for the retail and food service markets, with nearly $4 billion in annual sales. The company relocated in 2012 from the suburbs to its current location in the West Loop of Chicago. 600 employees were relocated to new downtown offices in a building built in 1944 but thoroughly renovated to accommodate Hillshire’s operations and employees, and more specifically to promote a culture of encounter, communication, and cross-pollination that was missing in its previous high-rise office building with smaller floor plates and few opportunities for chance encounters between employees.
As part of the renovation Hillshire committed to transforming the barren roof area into attractive, inviting outdoor spaces where employees could take their lunch break, participate in corporate functions, work or hold meetings in a non-traditional setting, or simply de-stress from the intense work environment.
GENERAL DESIGN: Keller Elementary Learning Garden
Located in the Mount Greenwood neighborhood of Chicago, Keller Elementary Regional Gifted Magnet School attracts a diverse range of students from all over the City to converge and learn at their facility. With the growing need for alternative outdoor teaching space, the School worked with Openlands, a non-profit that focuses on conservation and creation of open space within the Chicago metropolitan region.
Keller Elementary School was identified by Openlands as a vibrant location to build on their mission to help students become environmentally sensitive leaders within their communities. As part of this endeavor, Openlands shepherds school participation through training and hands-on environmental stewardship.
With Openlands guidance, the Christy Webber Landscapes (CWL) team worked with Keller Elementary’s Garden Committee to develop a design concept that responded to the particular needs of the school.
GENERAL DESIGN: New Park, New Legacy
Hermann Park is a 445-acre public park located in Houston’s Museum District, close to Rice University and Texas Medical Center. Several years ago, fifteen acres of Hermann Park were re-dedicated on its 100th anniversary. The fifteen acres would be known as McGovern Centennial Gardens and were envisioned to be the city’s central resource for garden education and enjoyment.
Hoerr Schaudt designed McGovern Gardens as a series of experiences that suit a wide variety of audiences - from the family on a casual weekend visit to the expert gardener attending classes hosted by local garden clubs. It was created as a pleasure garden for the people of Houston, rather than a formal botanic garden, yet it is still very horticulturally diverse.
GENERAL DESIGN: Prudential Plaza Roof Garden
In 2013 the owners of the Prudential Plaza committed to substantial reinvestment in this 1950s era high-rise office building in order to keep it competitive and attractive in the downtown Chicago office rental market. The goal was to reposition the property by upgrading existing systems and spaces, such as the lobby, security, elevators, and other common areas, and to provide new amenities that would differentiate the property in the marketplace. The lead role in the repositioning fell to a new tenant amenity floor, and because other office buildings also offer interior tenant amenities, the heavy lifting with respect to differentiation in the marketplace fell to the proposed roof garden, an amenity which many properties cannot offer.
GENERAL DESIGN: Reimagining Buckhead
Buckhead Atlanta is a high profile, mixed-use development in Georgia's capital city. The expansive, 10-acre district is located at the intersection of two of the city’s main arteries, Paces Ferry and Peachtree Roads. Upscale and targeted to luxury retailers, the new district, which has been dubbed the “Rodeo Drive of the South,” is a mix of 1.5 million square feet of luxury retail, restaurants, office space and residences set within the existing neighborhood of Buckhead Village. Atlanta’s history of sprawl means that most retail districts in the city are car-focused and do little to create an enjoyable pedestrian experience. The developers of Buckhead, Oliver McMillan, identified the pedestrian experience as a key way to support a luxury brand and to differentiate Buckhead from other developments.
Hoerr Schaudt led the design of the streetscape for the entire development. The goal was to make the landscape distinctive and welcoming, with mature trees to give shade, beautiful plantings that celebrate the seasons, and quality materials that identified Buckhead as a special place. Variety, scale, and shade infuse the street level with an energy and vibrancy that are typical of a thriving urban environment.
GENERAL DESIGN: Rural Retreat-Bunker Hill Farms
Bunker Hill Farms is a 230-acre privately held recreation and charitable function facility in McHenry County, Illinois. Planned and constructed primarily from 2007 to 2012, the former agricultural site has been transformed to contain a number of recreational features balanced with conservation areas and naturalistic landscapes. The goal was to create a place of outdoor beauty that could be used for private recreational use as well as serve as a setting for large-scale charitable events benefiting the local community.
ILT Vignocchi was responsible for all landscape design and planning on the site, golf course design, construction oversight, and coordination of the various trades (architect, builder, civil and environmental engineers). As a design-build firm, ILT Vignocchi also served as the primary contractor for the site work and oversaw construction impact on the landscape.
GENERAL DESIGN - UNREALIZED: Pearl of Istanbul
Located at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, Istanbul has long been an amalgam of cultures and a record of civilizations past and present. Today, Istanbul is undergoing a dramatic transformation. Expanding democracy, global investment, and abundant tourism are reshaping the region for generations to come. The Pearl of Istanbul is at the heart of this transformation. Envisioned by Turkey's business and civic leaders, championed by Istanbul's Mayor, and designed by the urban planning team, the Pearl marks Istanbul's arrival as a global destination.
GENERAL DESIGN - UNREALIZED: Central Park Bluff Stairs
The City of Highland Park’s Central Park had been the site of a bluff staircase since the early 1980’s, providing pedestrian access to the lakefront. Over time the bluff has shifted repeatedly, as unstable and highly saturated soils caused by glacial deposits eroded. This was further aggravated by the replacement, decades ago, of the City water supply which makes its way up the bluff from the water plant. In response, the city had been continually faced with costly repair and improvement efforts to maintain a useable staircase. In 2009, the staircase was condemned after structural problems caused by erosion displaced the first few flights of the stairs. It was demolished soon after.
In this project, a new multi-use stairway was designed to reestablish a direct pedestrian connection between the City and its public lakefront and beach. Early on in the design process the opportunity was recognized not just for a connection, but for a multi-level civic space, wherein users can determine their own level of engagement and find a memorable topographic experiences no matter how far they choose to travel vertically along the stairs. The structure consists of seven flights of stairs and four landing areas; two minor and two major. The two major landings act as platforms for gathering, resting and observation of the unique bluff environment. Incorporated into these platforms are seating areas to accommodate those who wish to rest and enjoy the quiet surroundings and magnificent views.
RESIDENTIAL DESIGN: Asian Art Gallery Gardens
Over several decades, an American collector assembled an outstanding collection of Asian artifacts which he displayed in and around his residence. As the collection grew and exhibit space in the original garden we designed for this purpose became limited, we encouraged the collector to commission a building and additional gardens within a 2.25 acre area for better display and continued scholarly research. Today, two distinct gardens adjacent to a new museum building function as outdoor galleries that exhibit ancient Asian sculpture. The overall landscape strikes a careful, yet relaxed balance between Asian and Midwestern aesthetics, honoring both in simplicity, material selections and style. It successfully breaks up the mass of a large, new building, and seamlessly integrates the entire area into a much larger, wooded residential property that is not dedicated to the gallery.
RESIDENTIAL DESIGN: Mandeville Canyon Home
Mandeville Canyon is located in southern California on the west side of Los Angeles. The property, not quite a full acre, has characteristics of a typical canyon profile: rocky, steep slopes and sandy, flat floors. Although the clients had a long list of program requirements, it was our intent to guide a process that allowed the rugged canyon environment to inform decisions; from our treatment of the slopes and flatter areas, to the siting of the house and major landscape elements.
The landscape wish-list provided by the client included a tennis court, pool and spa, outdoor shower, large vegetable garden, a dining terrace and space for food preparation, a fountain, a fire feature, and security.
RESIDENTIAL DESIGN: Modern Lakefront
Architecture and landscape are artfully fused at this contemporary lakefront residence, which descends a high bluff to Lake Michigan. The landscape’s interpretation of two distinct experiences created by the site – one connected to the street, one to the lake – differ in form and palette, yet work together as a unified whole. In front, a richly-layered ‘Midwest natural’ landscape emphasizes seasonal color and a quiet experience of immersion.
At the back of the house, an experience of ‘unfolding’ infuses both the architecture and landscape architecture. As the house gradually descends the bluff, landscape merges with structure on the green roof that covers the lower planes of the house. A simple planting palette of grasses and groundcover – bayberry, rogosa rose, sergeant juniper and dunegrass - withstand the tough winter conditions of the lake.
PLANNING & ANALYSIS: Northeastern Illinois Roadsides
Within the 6-county area of northeastern Illinois, the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) is responsible for over 28,060 centerline miles of roadways. Associated with this major transportation network, but often overlooked, are over 10,000 acres of roadside landscapes adjacent to toll-free expressways (toll roads managed by a different agency) and primary routes. This project was the culmination of a multi-year effort to document thousands of acres of roadsides and comprehensively, efficiently, and sustainably guide the development and management of these public landscapes.
Hey and Associates, Inc. collected field data necessary to prepare GIS-based mapping and databases for thousands of acres of expressway and state arterial route roadsides. Data collected and mapped included vegetative cover type (e.g. turf, prairie, wetlands, forest, or landscape), invasive weed populations (e.g. teasel, phragmites, leafy spurge), and roadside structures. In addition to location, descriptors were added to create a relational database that can be used to streamline roadside maintenance. Results of these efforts will make roadside landscape maintenance more sustainable and efficient via reduced mowing frequency, more efficient use of herbicides, and the use of integrated pest management techniques - a system labeled Targeted Vegetation Management or TVM.
PLANNING & ANALYSIS: Park 566 Framework Plan
As part of the 1909 Plan of Chicago, Daniel Burnham envisioned a continuous lakefront park network stretching from end to end of the city’s shoreline. Positioned between Rainbow Beach Park and Steelworkers Park, Park 566 encompasses approximately 70 acres of land along the lakefront which will be an integral part in completing “the last four miles” of Chicago’s lakefront parks.
Hey and Associates, Inc. was retained by the Chicago Park District to facilitate a public planning process, prepare a framework plan that reflects a shared vision for Park 566 as well as a technical memorandum outlining detailed design solutions to complex site conditions. Although today Park 566 looks like vacant land, not long ago the site was part the the former U.S. Steel Mill at South Works. Much of the industrial infrastructure remains, including building foundations, sewers, underground tunnels, roadways, and railroad tracks. Even though not always clearly visible due to the fill materials placed on site and volunteer vegetation, these reminders of the past needed to be understood and accounted for in future park development.
PLANNING & ANALYSIS: Sustainable Urban Infrastructure Guidelines and Policies
The Chicago Sustainable Urban Infrastructure Policies and Guidelines (SUIG) document provides a guide for successful and sustainable street and transportation improvements for pedestrians, bicyclists, transit users, and vehicles alike. The document responds to the challenges of global climate change and suggests guidelines for planning, designing, constructing, and maintaining a safe, livable, and sustainable City through sustainable design, Best Management Practices (BMPs), and multi-modal planning. In an effort to lead the nation in the innovation and demonstration of sustainable and green infrastructure, SUIG establishes a citywide approach for integrating environmental performance goals into infrastructure design, as well as a five-year implementation plan for all Department of Transportation projects.
GRADUATE PROJECT: Memorial to Mining - a Danville Story
Danville is a city of significant history of coal mining: it was the first to start strip mining in the nearby Midwest region. From early 1860s to late 1970s, countless amount of coal was excavated from the surface and the underground of the city. This important landmark had once contributed to its booming economy, improved living qualities and soon afterwards, left with numerous scars on earth that takes decades to heal and witnessed the age of lasting blight. As the protagonist in the modern history of Danville, coal mining has the nature of reminding people of the exploration in complete darkness and the rough texture of coal in true black color, which is beyond the reach of sunshine. The contrast between past and future, mining in darkness and the experience of sunlight at dusk by the miners inspired our design. Through creative manipulation of the diffused and dynamically changing sun light in designed structures, the experience of coal miners’ lives in old days is re-experienced in the landscape. This promotes new understanding of Danville through cultural imagination.
GRADUATE PROJECT: Movement
Danville Riverfront project is the product of a graduate studio in Landscape Architecture department, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. The project aims to raise public awareness of the Vermilion Riverfront landscape, and its potential of being a rich and vibrant public space as part of the larger urban green-line system.
Movement is the main concept of the project. It is based on city’s urban history, dynamic natural processes, and mental image of the city. The design reveals ecological processes in shifting water levels and sediment, movement of sun, and changes in shade. And it enhances perceptions of natural elements.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign - Graduate Project, Haoyang Li
GRADUATE PROJECT: Underground Agriculture
Underground agriculture is a way to reclaim abandoned tunnels in coal-mining systems, putting them to new, productive uses. Underground agriculture is also a way to help revive the economy of mining districts, transforming from a basis in limited-lifespan extraction industry to unlimited-lifespan generative industry. Furthermore, this method could help address an extreme situation facing cultures and economies today: sustaining food production in the face of systematic failures, growing urban populations, and climate change.
This project starts with a specific concern for post-industrial coal mining areas, which suffer economic depression and environmental pollution. Many abandoned coal mine tunnels are now being repurposed as landfills or, after cleaning, as storage facilities. This project is an opportunity to rethink how we might treat such situations productively, taking advantage of existing infrastructure. This project also sets up system-specific approaches for dealing with similar situations, in which economic growth and co-operative engagement are sought.
COMMUNICATIONS: Loyola Coastal Campus Signage and Sustainability Website
As a school with an iconic lakefront campus, Loyola University Chicago is dedicated to smart water management and protecting the region’s most precious resource: its neighbor, Lake Michigan. The Institute of Environmental Sustainability (IES) at Loyola is advancing Loyola's work to create a more sustainable university community by educating students, staff and faculty about the ways to conserve natural resources and build conservation practices into daily behaviors. Permanent signs have been installed throughout campus and a comprehensive sustainability website has been developed to raise awareness about the landscape and water management strategies the University is implementing, and to inspire students and community members to take action towards a sustainable future.
COMMUNICATIONS: Morgan Shoal Framework Plan
The Chicago Park District and the City of Chicago have been improving sections of the Lake Michigan shoreline over the last 20 years to reinforce its natural composition and create upgraded amenities for park visitors. One of the last remaining sections of this improvement effort is the narrow strip of parkland from 45th Street to 51st Street, called Morgan Shoal. Built in the 1920’s, the Morgan Shoal shoreline is failing and no longer protecting Burnham Park and Lake Shore Drive to the west from flooding and erosion.
The Morgan Shoal Framework Plan report was conceived in order to document site challenges and remedies for this natural occurrence. The complex issues of shoreline protection, cost considerations, and maintaining and expanding views were important to capture in a short yet comprehensive document that could easily be shared with stakeholders, the community and general public. Graphically rich, concise information is presented as a piece that the Chicago Park District and the City of Chicago may use to examine and evaluate conclusions drawn from an in-depth analysis that readily made use of public input.
Morgan Shoal Framework Plan Report
SmithGroupJJR - Chicago, Illinois
LANDMARK: Ping Tom Memorial Park
Ping Tom Memorial Park is a shining example of the transformation of vacant open space into a vibrant community anchor. Completed in more than 10 years and five phases, the expanded 19-acre site now includes traditional Chinese gardens, a playground, pavilion, naturalized shoreline, community waterfront plaza, and a boardwalk.
The history of this dynamic pubic space stems back to the late 1960’s when the Dan Ryan Expressway spur cut through Chinatown’s only public green space, Hardin Square Park. Designed by the Olmsted brothers, Hardin Square Park had amenities such as a fieldhouse, wading pools, ballfields, and playgrounds. After 40 years of waiting and in a bold expansion plan pioneered by the late Ping Tom, the parkland was part of a 60-acre mixed use development on former railroad land.
Situated along the Chicago River near the 18th Street Bridge, the initial 7-acre historic railroad site was acquired by the Chicago Park District in 1996, and subsequently transformed into cherished and much needed open space for the Chinese community in Chicago. The development of the park surged development of the surrounding neighborhood, transforming Chinatown community into the distinctive and energetic community is it today.
PUBLIC RECOGNITION: Kris Jarantoski
The Illinois Chapter, ASLA is proud to recognize Kris Jarantoski for his dedication, leadership, and outstanding contribution to the Illinois landscape.
Each year, ILASLA recognizes projects, legislation, articles, organizations, or individuals that have significantly enhanced the Illinois landscape or promoted the profession of landscape architecture in our state. This year, the Chapter bestows the award to Kris Jarantoski, the current Executive Vice President and Director of the Chicago Botanic Garden.
As executive vice president and director of the Chicago Botanic Garden, Kris Jarantoski develops and directs the horticulture, plant collections, and facilities and planning. Since joining the Garden in 1977, Jarantoski has played a major part in the creation of each of the 26 distinct gardens and four natural areas on the Garden‘s 385-acre campus.
During his time at the Garden, Jarantoski has received a number of notable awards. In 2007, the American Horticultural Society presented Jarantoski with its Professional Award for his significant contributions to the field of horticulture. In 2011, the Garden Club of America presented Jarantoski with its Distinguished Service Medal for outstanding service in the field of horticulture.
In July 2014, Jarantoski received the American Public Gardens Association (APGA) Honorary Life Member Award—its most prestigious—recognizing “an enduring commitment and contribution to the organization and leadership in the field of public gardens.” Announcing the award, Casey Sclar, executive director of the APGA, wrote, “Kris’s service to the Association for almost four decades is a beacon of leadership for others to emulate. He not only has taken the Chicago Botanic Garden from fledging garden to one of the great gardens of the world, but has lifted the entire profession along the way with his charismatic, positive grace.”
Most recently, in November 2014 Jarantoski was awarded the 2015 Arthur Hoyt Scott Medal and Award. The Scott Medal and Award, established in 1929 by Swarthmore College, recognizes an individual who has made an outstanding national contribution to the science and art of gardening; it has long been regarded as one of the most prestigious honors in horticulture.
A longtime member of the American Public Gardens Association, Jarantoski serves as a member of the Collections Committee and Design and Planning Section. He also served as chair of the Awards Committee and as midwest regional coordinator for the APGA, and has written numerous articles for American Nurseryman, The Public Garden, The Herbalist, and Museum News.
Jarantoski also serves as a member of the Screening Committee of the Garden Conservancy.
In addition to leading all horticultural efforts at the Garden, Jarantoski has participated in research efforts evaluating, selecting, and hybridizing dieback shrubs to improve their suitability to the Chicago area.
Jarantoski graduated with a B.A. in ornamental horticulture from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1974, and two years later he received an M.S. in ornamental horticulture and botany from the University of Minnesota–St. Paul. He received an M.B.A. in business management from the Lake Forest Graduate School of Management in 1985 and continued his studies at the Museum Management Institute, University of California–Berkeley, in 1988.
In tribute to Kris Jarantoski’s immeasurable contributions to the Garden over the decades, a campus bearing his name is now in development.
FIRM OF THE YEAR: site design group, ltd.
site design group, ltd. - Chicago, Illinois
The firm is an award-winning landscape architecture and urban design practice based in Chicago, Illinois. The firm’s twenty one innovative and diverse professionals collectively strive to produce creative spaces that inspire, restore, and transform communities. The firm addresses complex design challenges that clearly reflect community identity and communicate beautiful and functional spaces. In their 25 years in business, the firm has made its name throughout Chicagoland and the greater Midwest for their leadership and innovation in landscape architecture and urban design, commitment to design excellence, intricately detailed public spaces, and thoughtful placemaking. They strive to think outside the box to engage and excite people with who they are and what landscape architects can do. The firm utilizes a process that emphasizes collaborative team building, attention to detail, consideration of human scale, and understanding the past, current, and future needs of a given community to ensure the best design outcomes. Using functional systems coupled with “out of the box” strategies, the firm works diligently with their clients and the community to create spaces that improve the user experience, effectively manage stormwater, and push the boundaries of sustainable design.
Commitment to Design Excellence
Award-winning exterior public spaces designed by the firm have successfully redefined the shape and character of individual communities throughout Chicagoland, setting a high standard for Landscape Architects across the Midwest. From parks to streetscapes, residential and mixed-use villages to urban riverwalks, the firm has a wide-ranging breadth of experience. Projects such as Mary Bartelme Park in Chicago’s West Loop, the Printers’ Row Park in the historic Printers’ Row community, and the Park at Lakeshore East have raised the bar for urban design. The firm recently completed the redevelopment of Henry Palmisano (Stearn’s Quarry) Park, a 27-acre former limestone quarry turned landfill, into an active and educationally focused environmental park that includes nature trails, wetland habitat, native plantings, recycled materials, bird and fish habitats, and bioretention areas. Recently featured in Landscape Architecture Magazine’s November 2015 issue, the result of the cleanup and redevelopment effort has provided huge benefits to the community and has become a major regional destination for the Bridgeport neighborhood. Leading the field in designing for disadvantaged communities, the firm recently completed the innovative and acclaimed Judge Fisher Senior Apartments in Edgewater and the Woodlawn Senior Housing development, located in the South Side’s Woodlawn neighborhood, and part of the Grove Parc redevelopment. These places continue to have a positive physical, social, and economic impact on the surrounding communities.
As one of the pioneers of the now famous Chicago median program, beginning with the Indiana Avenue Streetscape, the firm has completed over 36 individual streetscape projects over the past 10 years and is currently working on an additional 15 active contracts. In the past two years alone, the firm has completed over 60 miles of unique, bold, and complex streetscape developments throughout Chicagoland – projects that push the boundaries of innovative, engaging, and sustainable design. The firm is currently involved in several forward-thinking green infrastructure projects, including the Argyle Streetscape, the first shared street in Chicago in the active Uptown community, and the Blue Island Streetscape, a continuation of the previously developed Pilsen Sustainable Streetscape Pilot project. Covering a 1.5-mile stretch of Blue Island Avenue and Cermak Road, the pilot demonstrates innovative technologies and design techniques within the public right of way. Excelling beyond a traditional streetscape project, the firm led a team of designers in the completion of the State Street Lightscape installation – a custom, energy-efficient lighting installation located within sidewalk planters along State Street in Chicago’s busy downtown shopping and business district. The installation takes the shape of a cluster of prairie reed grasses, with programmable LED lights as the seedheads that sway in the wind and are choreographed to seasonally themed songs throughout the year – replacing costly holiday lighting displays, and creating a new identity for State Street. The firm is currently working with the City of Chicago to develop the new Placemaking/Liveable Streets Guidelines – a planning document that encompasses physical design, programmed activities, and spontaneous interactions in the development of neighborhoods.
The firm is also leading the movement toward natural play spaces throughout the Midwest. The recently completed Near North Montessori School Nature Playground and Garfield Park Conservatory Play and Grow Garden V1.0 have recently won professional design awards and have been extremely well-received by their respective communities, helping to set the bar for exploratory, inventive play spaces in Illinois and spurring the desire across the city for more nature play. Currently, the firm is designing a number of nature-based play spaces throughout the Midwest, including clients such as Milwaukee’s Downtown Montessori, JCC Chicago, and the Forest Preserves of Cook County.
Through strong community alliances, the firm has solidified the role of landscape architecture in the future planning for schools, transportation, housing, healthcare and higher education campus design across Chicago. Attention to the importance of green infrastructure, durability, maintenance, functionality, and factors such as stormwater, lighting, public use, and diversity of use, in conjunction with innovation and design excellence has led to numerous award-winning, successful projects. Many of their collaborations have included not only municipal and institutional clients, but community organizations, such as Special Service Areas (SSA) and local not-for-profit organizations. Through their extensive portfolio of work – including more than 150 projects and a total of 16 professional awards this year alone – the firm’s projects serve as a testing ground for sustainable and innovative design through the development of exterior environments that create a sense of place, demonstrate leading-edge technologies, and lead to the long-term use by the public.
In 2015, the firm celebrated their 25th anniversary – a milestone that was marked by a number of celebratory, educational, and outreach efforts that were aimed at raising awareness of the profession of landscape architecture. Alongside the Chicago Architecture Biennial and the American Society of Landscape Architects Annual Meeting, the firm hosted a two-week long collaborative Popup gallery, entitled: TAKE IT OUTSIDE. The Popup was a public educational and interactive gallery that sought to bring attention to the value and meaning of exterior environments and design interventions that connect people to the outdoors, such as nature play gardens, parks and open spaces, restored natural areas, and public art. In addition to the indoor gallery, the popup included a sidewalk “parklet” adjacent to the building entrance to provide a place to linger, gather, and reflect.
The collaborative gallery was a mix of completed works, which featured design concepts, construction drawings, images of the completed work, as well as artifacts – such as material samples, models, and other tactile objects, as well as “unrealized” projects, and in-process projects. The Popup provided a venue to launch the firm’s 25 Year celebration book – a marketing publication that has been made available to clients, colleagues, as well as the public, which quantifies the successes and challenges of the firm’s recent and landmark projects.
The Popup was held in the Johnson Publishing Building (also known as the Ebony and Jet Headquarters) – the now-vacant, 11-story former headquarters for America’s largest African-American publisher that is currently owned by Columbia College Chicago. The Popup was a collaboration with Columbia College Chicago students, who recorded and photographed the gallery as part of their documentary class, as well as other artists whose work focused on nature and public open space, including a not-for-profit organization focused on public art, an architectural and nature photographer, and a film producer whose work focuses on social issue films. Open throughout the American Society of Landscape Architects Annual Meeting, the Popup was a venue for targeted events and was open to the public on a daily basis, encouraging anyone and everyone walking by to engage – with more than 1,000 visitors throughout the two weeks. Punctuated by an opening reception and closing celebration, each event was open to the public, and featured special elements, such as a professional development lecture, an alumni gathering for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a celebration of Jens Jensen, a time-lapse video and photography exhibit examining the Lurie Garden, and a live public art demonstration – including a piece that will be donated to a local school. The firm engaged with local suppliers and product representatives to obtain donations of time and materials to help fund and raise awareness of the Popup.
As is well-known in landscape architecture, exposure to nature is a critical component in human physical, emotional, and intellectual development – and is especially important in children. The firm‘s Popup focused on engaging and educating the public and professionals in the value, complexity, and opportunities to integrate immersive, artful, nature-based play environments and open spaces in urban areas at a wide-range of scales.
As a certified Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE), the firm believes a diverse team leads to more creative and innovative design solutions. The firm’s diverse twenty-one staff members have wide-ranging professional and educational backgrounds, including landscape architecture, architecture, planning, natural resources, arboriculture, English, museum curation, fine arts, graphic design, construction management, and marketing communications. Collectively, the firm’s staff speaks nine languages and is immersed in communities across the City of Chicago and the nation. The growth, success, and evolution of the firm in their 25 year history can be attributed largely to the individual contributions and unique makeup of this diverse and dynamic firm.
Building off of the individual strengths and unique background of the staff, the firm’s well-rounded team is genuinely dedicated to the advancement of the profession and deeply involved in local community and professional initiatives. For example, Founding Principal Ernest Wong, FASLA, APA sits on the board of numerous public service organizations and professional juries across the nation, including the Driehaus Award for Architectural Excellence in Community Design, the Student Conservation Association, the Chicago Landmarks Commission, the Chicago Cultural Affairs Commission, the Chicago Architecture Foundation, the Museum of Science and Industry, and the Chinese American Service League. Similarly, Managing Principal Bradley McCauley ASLA, CSI, CDT most recently led the Illinois Chapter of the ASLA as the President, and now serves on the ASLA’s Board of Trustees – the youngest professional to hold both honors. He also chairs the Consortium for Design and Construction Careers and sits on the Resource Committee for his alma mater, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Department of Landscape Architecture. In addition to Brad’s involvement, the firm has nine active members in ASLA, including two other staff members that serve as ILASLA committee chairs, guiding the Membership and External Communications boards, and another staff member who is participating in the chapter’s Legacy Project – an initiative to work with local high school students to design and install a courtyard at their school. During the recent ASLA Annual Meeting in Chicago, the firm was closely involved in the planning and operations of the event, with several staff members serving on the Host Booth Committee. The firm was also proud to host four distinct field sessions as part of the meeting, which included tours through several communities and public spaces across the City of Chicago. The firm also led an education session - “Designing for Cultural Identity: Chicago Case Studies” – which focused on minorities and cultural identity in the design profession – a topic that the firm strongly advocates for. Similarly, the firm employs multiple architects who maintain memberships and engage with the American Institute of Architects at the local and state level, serving as jury members, lecturers, and participants in special events.
In addition to professional affiliations, the firm routinely serves on design juries and participates in speaking engagements regularly, including ADA 25 Chicago | The Legacy Project, the Affordable Housing Design Leadership Institute, the Newhouse Architecture Competition, PechaKucha, and student juries for Landscape Architecture programs around the state – more than 30 this year alone. The firm also engages regularly with students from local programs through portfolio critiques and internship programs. In 2015, the firm hired a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture student and a Master of Landscape Architecture student for a three month long internship, where each intern was exposed to all facets of the design practice. The firm is dedicated to furthering the education and professional development of students and commits to hiring interns from local programs every year. In order to encourage involvement in professional advancement activities, the firm provides a substantial budget and allocation of yearly hours toward professional development for each staff member to use at their discretion, further emphasizing the importance of such activities to this firm.
The firm is committed to the future growth and evolution of the team, and aims to continue to expand into new realms, build upon the diverse and talented staff, and continue to advance the profession and community. The firm’s dedication to professional leadership, their long-history of innovation and leadership in Landscape Architecture, and their community-oriented approach to their practice is an excellent example of the qualifications for Firm of the Year. Furthermore, the firm’s involvement in the ASLA Annual Meeting and creative, one-of-a-kind Popup gallery focusing on the public awareness and development of the profession further exemplifies this unique firm’s dedication and contributions to the profession of Landscape Architecture in the City of Chicago and across the region