Botanic Gardens

North Sciences Quadrangle

The University of Chicago campus has been recognized as a Botanic Garden by the American Public Garden Association. As part of this overall effort, we have created numerous display gardens located throughout campus. These gardens elevate the campus landscape character and display a variety of design influences from naturalistic to formal gardens.

When the University developed the old fraternity house at 5555 South Woodlawn into the University's Alumni House, alumnae, Dani Kauffman, funded the installation of the garden and dedicated them to her parents. The gardens feature a variety of plantings similar to those found in estate gardens: shrub roses, daylilies, lilacs, yews, and mixed perennials.  A notable feature in the spring is the weeping cherry tree on the upper lawn terrace.

The original pond was designed by Olmsted & Olmsted, the successor firm to Frederick Law Olmsted.  It served as the Botany Departments' classroom, housing plant collections for John Coulter, the first department chair.   When botany became a field and lab science, the pond's usefulness diminished, and it fell into disrepair.  In 2002, the Julie & Parker Hall Botanic Garden Endowment funded the restoration and of the garden plantings, overseen by the Chicago firm of Hoerr Schaudt.  Notable is the large ginkgo tree in the NE corner, and the akebia in the SW corner, a remnant of Coulter's collections.

Throughout campus, container gardens add seasonal interest.  The containers highlight pathways, building and quadrangle entrances, and direct traffic.  The campus community eagerly anticipates the installations and the plantings are never the same. They are changed and amended four times a year, starting with the spring installation in April, highlighted with spring bulbs.  For the summer rotation in late May, the bulbs are switched out with summer annuals and perennials. By September, the fall rotation is installed with mums and kales. Come November, the containers are filled with boughs and branches for the winter.

The latest Hall Botanic Garden is located in the Crerar Quadangle, surrounded by both physical and biological sciences laboratories.  The garden took a science theme for the primary feature, a large custom light fixture with two floating rings of light hovering over a large plaza, surrounded by Red Pointe maples, planted in a circular bed of cranesbill and daffodils. Designed by Jacobs Ryan, the undulating lawn and groves of Dawn Redwoods and columnar Sweetgums set the stage for the plaza and its light feature.

In May 2019, the light feature in Crerar Science Quadrangle won a Merit Award presented by the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES). This nationally recognized organization awards selected projects for ingenuity and originality in lighting design. In addition to the IES honor, in August 2019, the Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture, selected the Crerar Science Quadrangle as an American Architecture Award winner for 2019. Read more here

Hull Court was included in the original concept plan with Botany Pond as an expansion of the garden made available by the University for John Coulter's growing plant collections gathered from his travels around the world.  Funded again by the Hall Botanic Garden Endowment, the University engaged Hoerr Schaudt to develop the complement to the garden at Botany Pond.  The lawn mounds create the focal points, and Midwest native plants were used primarily for the plant palette.

The siting of Ida Noyes Cloister Garden is challenging in that the plan is very symmetrical and faces west, with one side being in heavy shade most of the day. Plant materials were selected that tolerate these conditions while still retaining the symmetry of the design.  The roses planted along the north bed were donated to the University by an alumni's family who hybridizes roses in Oregon.  The south bed features white azaleas, interplanted with a variety of hostas. The overall garden installation was a gift from Dani Kauffman, also an alum, with a passion for gardens.

Dr. Janet Rowley was a pioneer in cancer research at the university and an avid gardener at her home in Hyde Park.  To mark the occasion of her 75th birthday, her colleagues gathered funds to establish this garden at the west side of Bond Chapel.  Dr. Rowley was consulted throughout the garden's design and included a plant palette of some of her favorite perennials.

A hidden corner of campus, this raised terrace garden is most notable for the large old Callery Pears, which were planted nearly 35 years ago.  They have opened up and aged such that their nearly black sculptural branches now create a shady summer spot to sit amidst the cluster seating, open benches, and planters.  

University Trustee Ferd Kramer provided the original endowment funds to establish the Kramer Beds to honor his wife, a landscape architect, Stephanie Shambaugh Kramer who worked on campus in the 1950s.  These were the first beds to provide seasonal displays on campus.  The beds have been significantly widened through the years and Craig Bergman was engaged to redesign the beds as a perennial border instead of simply spring bulbs and summer annuals.  The mixed perennials and shrubs provide year-round interest in the beds leading to Levi Hall within the Main Quadrangles.

Eero Saarinen's Law School is a strong architectural statement, and the garden to be installed here needed to be equally bold.  The Hall Botanic Garden Endowment supported this garden and Kettlelcamp and Kettelcamp were the landscape architects. Using the articulated curtain wall of the Law School library tower for inspiration, the folded lawn panels are a most striking feature of the garden, punctuated by birch trees, reminiscent of the north woods of Finland, home to Saarinen's father.  A large weeping beech tree is balanced by Kenneth Armitage's sculpture DiArchy in a bed of sedums.

The Logan Center for the Arts was a culmination of years of planning to consolidate many of the arts programs under one roof at the University.  As both a supporter of the arts and the University gardens, Dani Kaufmfman again stepped forward to fund one of the major gardens at the Logan Center - the entry gardens at the south entrance motor court.  Conceived as blocks of perennials and shrubs in vibrant color and texture by Hargreaves Associates, the gardens are eyecatching year-round.

The Main Quadrangles are considered one of the Crown Jewels of American Campus Planning. Most of the large oak trees predate the start of construction for the University buildings, and when one fell during a storm 15 years ago, it was determined to be 187 years old.  Most of the American Elms planted with the University's founding have succumbed to Dutch Elm Disease. The oaks continue to thrive through yearly pruning and maintenance, and we have been actively working to plant the next generations of oaks.  Each June, the University community gathers for Spring convocation in the space.

With the creation of the latest quadrangle on the campus, the goal was to create a unique open space that would accommodate a wide variety of activities.  Designed by Michael van Valkenburg's office, the nearly 200 trees and shrubs will form a canopy over a woodland garden divided by a rocky ravine, formed by massive slabs of stones layered such that they serve as both seating and retaining walls, allowing for some change in topography.   Underneath, stormwater is collected and stored to be reused as irrigation water through an innovative system being tested for further use on campus.

Faculty at the University's Laboratory Schools wanted to have an outdoor classroom where students could experience the topics they were reading about in textbooks.  Working with the faculty and Conservation Design Forum, the garden includes an active water feature with multiple plant habitats.  Working with existing large trees and shrubs, most of the herbaceous plantings are considered native to the Midwest prairie, the garden also added topography and rock grottos to create a unique outdoor experience. This garden is locked except when in use but is easily visible from 59th Street.

During most of the 20th Century, the entrance to the Main Quadrangles from the east at 58th Street and University Avenue was flanked by tennis courts. These were removed and a porous edge of raised planting beds was created to welcome pedestrians at multiple points.  Within these planting beds, designed by Sasaki Associates, a mixture of perennials, roses and yews were installed and further defined by rows of columnar English Oaks at both the center and the ends.

The Regenstein Library is the academic center for much of the University, and the main entrance across from the Main Quads became the site selected for the next Hall Botanic Garden. Kettelcamp and Kettelcamps Landscape Architects designed the garden as a foil to the Brutalist architecture of the building, using its geometry to establish the tiered planting beds, formed by using the old sandstone pavers from the University's Main Quadrangles. The donors wanted the garden to emphasize evergreen plant materials for winter interest, thus the wide variety of species.

When Swift Hall was constructed, two of the four cloister walks were omitted and the courtyard was simply paved.  When this site was selected for the next Hall Botanic Garden, care was provided by Culliton Quinn Landscape Architects to preserve the oak trees there that predated the original construction.  A cloister garden needs a water feature, and this is a modern interpretation with multiple layers of water play. As it is a favorite summer noontime destination, multiple benches were incorporated.  The plant palette features primarily white flowering shrubs and perennials.

The 2002 Midway Master Plan called for strolling gardens along 59th Street, reminiscent of the gardens seen in the 1871 plan developed by Frederick Law Olmsted.  The garden was designed by Olin Partners and Wolf Landscape Architecture and the plant materials were chosen for year-round impact.  Hidden inside the forest of spruce and pines is the chiller plant for the skating rink just to the south.  Clumps of birch trees dot the undulating lawn panels to the east and west, and in front of Harper Library is the Readers Garden, centered on a monument to Linne, the founder of modern botany.

The garden directly south of the skating rink is a modern version of the strolling garden, designed by Site Design with assistance by Craig Bergman.  The central garden is rich with horticultural diversity, focusing on a plaza dotted with Bald Cyprus.  On either side are fields of unmown fescues, punctuated with mown lawn mounds, creating topography in the flat Midwest landscape.  The paths through the garden lead you through the variety of garden plantings, knit together with streaks of the burning bush - turning vivid red each fall.

The Woodlawn Garden sits at a prominent entry to the University at 58th and Woodlawn.  Robie House, Rockefeller Chapel, Harper Center (Booth School), the Oriental Institute, and Saieh Hall as its neighbors, are its distinguished neighbors.  The garden concept grew out of a native plants garden started for a student ecology group, and grew to encompass the entire site.   For years this location held the infamous Leaning Tree, an old ash tree that was a remnant of the residences that once stood on the site, and upon succumbing to old age, was removed prior to the garden.

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