With lush new tome Movement and Meaning, renowned Chicago landscape architecture firm Hoerr Schaudt kicks off summer in verdant style.
The Tiffany Celebration Garden in Grant Park picturesquely frames the grand Buckingham Fountain.
When Douglas Hoerr arrived in Chicago in 1991 following a two-year apprenticeship in the leafy gardens of England, the landscape architect was underwhelmed. “It was good, thoughtful landscape architecture,” recalls the Indiana native, “but it was more focused on hardscapes and plazas; horticulture was by and large perfunctory.” Since then—first as a solo practitioner and later partnering with the late Peter Schaudt to form powerhouse firm Hoerr Schaudt in 2008—the 60-year-old Lincoln Park resident has beautified environs ranging from the Mag Mile’s famed flower medians to Grant Park’s Tiffany Celebration Garden.
As Hoerr celebrates the recent publication of Movement and Meaning (The Monacelli Press, $50), a stunning new retrospective documenting the global imprint of the duo’s renowned green thumb, he shares his thoughts on some of the firm’s most successful projects in Chicago and beyond.
Beautification breakthrough: Commissioned in 1991, Hoerr’s verdant planters outside Crate & Barrel’s Michigan Avenue flagship did much more than just gussy up the Mag Mile; the project “had a huge impact on Chicago, to a degree, [of] rebranding a city that was always known for toughness,” he observes, adding, “It was holding its own and saying, ‘Look what it does when architecture and landscape work in harmony together.’”
Horticulture 101: From the 40,000-square-foot green roof garden of Toronto’s Phillips Square to the McGovern Centennial Gardens in Houston’s Hermann Park, Hoerr Schaudt’s reach is international—but informed by circumstances specific to the Midwest. “The truest test of good design is how it looks in the winter,” observes Hoerr. “That’s a lesson that has worked for me in different parts of the country, even though there’s not always the four seasons.”
Elevated ecology: In 2003, Apple became the first private sector company in Chicago with a green rooftop after tapping Hoerr to design its Michigan Avenue space—but only after the firm convinced the late Steve Jobs of its importance. “[I told him], ‘if a guy like you, Steve, who’s the architect of the 21st century, doesn’t lead by example environmentally and designwise, then what hope do we have?’” Apple later commissioned Hoerr Schaudt for its Lincoln Park outpost in 2010.
Gridiron greening: Hoerr singles out Peter Schaudt’s beautifying of Soldier Field as a favorite project by his one-time “friendly competitor,” whose 2003 redesign of the stadium’s perimeter includes a verdant Children’s Park and 17 acres of lakefront greenery. “It showed [the importance of] worrying about the aesthetics—not just the architectural aesthetics, but the context of the greater site—so it’s not just acres of parking lot,” commends Hoerr.
The future of landscape: From amenitized rooftops to fleshed-out riverbanks, Hoerr forecasts a growing embrace of previously overlooked spaces and “actually sinking your teeth into areas that at one time weren’t even considered important.”