Parking  |  Tickets  |  Join


Peter Wirtz and Mikyoung Kim to Design Display Gardens

Gloria Ciaccio
(847) 835-6819, direct

Release Date: 
Tuesday, December 18, 2012

GLENCOE, IL (December 18, 2012) – 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 inspiring 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 shapeone 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 join notable international designers and landscape architects with whom the Chicago Botanic Garden has partnered over the past 40 years to create great public spaces and distinct display gardens.  These designers and architects include:  English landscape designer John Brookes, who designed the English Walled Garden; Wolfgang Oehme and James van Sweden, who designed Evening Island and the Gardens of the Great Basin; Michael Van Valkenburgh, landscape architect and professor at Harvard University School of Design, who created Spider Island; Koichi Kawana, who designed the Elizabeth Hubert Malott Japanese Garden; and Dan Kiley, often called one of the greatest landscape architects of the twentieth century, who designed the Esplanade and the Crescent Garden. 

     “I am elated to be continuing the Garden’s tradition of working with landscape architects of the highest caliber,” said Sophia Shaw, Chicago Botanic Garden president and CEO.  “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, the history of Chicago, and honor that tradition with the selection of these outstanding landscape architects who will contribute new work to this extraordinary living museum.  These two new gardens will transform the experience of the Chicago Botanic Garden and continue it on its path from being great to being legendary,” she said.

     The American Planning Association (APA) named the Chicago Botanic Garden as one of ten Great Public Spaces for 2012 under the organization’s Great Places in America program. APA Great Places exemplify exceptional character and highlight the role planning and planners play in adding value to communities, including fostering economic growth and creating jobs. APA singled out the Chicago Botanic Garden, a leader in sustainability, for its impressive design, holistic approach to the visitor experience, commitment to education and research, and creative and sensitive plans for the future.

     Wirtz International NV and its sister firm, Wirtz Landscape Architecture NV, together form the largest design-build landscape architecture company in Belgium. The founder, Jacques Wirtz, started the firm in 1950; since that time, the company has evolved into a family business that has been run for the past 25 years by Martin and Peter Wirtz. Projects have included Jubilee Park, Canary Wharf, London; Jardin du Carrousel, at the Louvre Museum in Paris; and The Alnwick Garden, Northumberland, United Kingdom. Peter Wirtz received his master’s of landscape architecture from Cornell University, Ithaca, New York.

     Mikyoung Kim Design, based in Boston, Massachusetts, is an award-winning landscape architecture and environmental art firm whose work ranges from urban gardens to large-scale public parks. Her work of the past eighteen years has focused on sustainability and education in the landscape. Prior to receiving a master’s of landscape architecture from the Harvard Design School, she studied piano performance at Oberlin Conservatory. The firm has received numerous awards from, among others, the American Institute of Architects and the American Society of Landscape Architects. Kim recently completed the Crown Sky Garden at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, a sculptural installation for the Dulles International Airport, and the ChonGae River Restoration Project in the heart of Seoul, Korea. Currently, MYKD is  working on the University of Chicago LAB school, Zoo Miami Entry Gardens, and Pier 4 Plaza in Boston.

   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.



Editors, please note: For digital images, contact Jasmine Leonas at (847) 835-6829 or at

Interact with the Garden for this and other Garden events and programs: