Chicago Botanic Garden: Regenstein Nature Learning Center - CODAworx

Chicago Botanic Garden: Regenstein Nature Learning Center

Submitted by Mikyoung Kim Design


Location: Glencoe, IL, United States

Completion date: 2016

Project Team

Landscaper Architect

Mikyoung Kim

Mikyoung Kim Design

Local Landscape Architect

Terry Warriner Ryan

Jacobs/Ryan Associates


Kate Joyce

Kate Joyce


The Regenstein Learning Campus is an environmental discovery center and nature playground at the Chicago Botanic Garden. This horticultural center is LEED Platinum certified and serves as a vibrant community for families, offering an interactive experience with nature
The design immerses families and children of all ages to a variety of outdoor experiences that include inquiry-focused learning and play that engenders a deep understanding of ecological systems. This regenerative project is envisioned as a gateway to the natural world; one that highlights creative discovery in all seasons. The campus weaves together multiple landscape typologies: from an upland play mound area to a lowland fountain fed from the adjacent lake.
The project features an interactive stone water runnel for discovery and play at the center of the garden. The perimeter of the garden includes other active elements such as a willow tunnel, an arborvitae contemplative room, a hornbeam council ring and hollowed out climbable logs. The upper garden adjacent to the Learning Center includes an apiary, a butterfly garden, and an outdoor classroom space for art and gardening classes. Discovery and imagination are emphasized in the design, offering visitors fertile ground for the expansion of the mind and body.


Sustainability drove the sourcing of local and regional materials for the play runnel, providing a cooling oasis during the summer months. Regionally sourced boulders offer moments of discovery throughout the landscape. A central boulder fountain within the runnel offers children of all abilities to engage the water. Reclaimed logs were carved to create moments of play for children to crawl and hide and seek. Rain gardens provide additional opportunities for discovery and learning while addressing important stormwater management issues.
The campus links to two previously existing amenities to create a larger learning environment: The Grunsfeld Growing Garden, an herb and culinary garden, to the Northeast; and the Kleinman Family Cove, an aquatic learning center for families and children, to the West. Together these three distinct learning environments now read as one experience providing a rich and highly programmed learning center for the Chicago Botanic Garden.