The Regenstein Learning Campus is an environmental discovery center and nature playground at the Chicago Botanic Garden. This seven acre horticultural center serves a vibrant community of families, offering an interactive experience with the natural world. 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. These sculptural mounds frame the garden and create an unfolding experience in the landscape where visitors engage the earth. At the central green, a serpentine water feature and large scale boulders allow for exploration and discovery. The perimeter of the garden includes other active elements such as a willow tunnels, informal council rings and hollowed out climbable wood logs. The surrounding plant beds are a diverse palette of native plants and include a multisensory experience that engages all of the senses. The upper garden adjacent to the Learning Center includes an apiary, an outdoor classroom space for art and gardening classes. A large terrace that looks out onto the garden is used each morning for yoga and tai-chi classes each morning.
Discovery and imagination are emphasized in this design, offering visitors fertile ground for the expansion of the mind and body. As nature increasingly becomes a distant concept for children plugged into the digital world, this new garden encourages direction engagement with the natural cycles of nature and reconnects our youth to the ecological world.
Credits: - Booth Hansen - Principal - Laurence Booth