Art Institute of Chicago – South Garden

Designers: Dan Urban Kiley | City: Chicago, IL | Project Type: courtyard, fountain
Date Visited: 10.24.12

Location: E Jackson Dr. and S. Michigan Ave. Chicago IL
Official Opening Date: 1967

Built atop a parking garage on the south side of the Art Institute of Chicago, this is one of modern landscape architect Dan Kiley’s “best preserved commissions.” A peaceful and quiet respite from the bustling city down below, the South Garden is a magnificent, not-to-be-missed addition to the art museum.

There’s a timeless, soothing quality to this open courtyard. Vinca crawls up the trunks of a gridded bosquet of cockspur hawthorn trees (Crataegus crus-galli) growing out of orange gravel and raised planter beds. The trees form a low canopy of shade and since the raised planter beds are at just the right height for sitting, the South Garden has become a favorite spot for office workers to take their lunch breaks.

I’ve visited the site on a day of rain and then sunshine. People still love to come and sit in the space despite the weather conditions, whether its to catch up on reading, have a conversation, or to eat.

The hawthorns also frame a long rectangular pool which terminates at the Lorado Taft’s neoclassically designed Fountain of the Great Lakes (1913). This is an allegorical sculpture featuring five women, each of whom represent one of the great lakes.

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