As the first building constructed on the grounds of the Chicago Botanic Garden in 1977, the Regenstein Education Center is the centerpiece of the Garden’s public programming and outreach. The Garden’s growing educational vision required a thorough assessment of all of the Garden’s properties, which led to a significant re-purposing of the Regenstein facility: a new library, renovated galleries, and courtyards. While maintaining the integrity of Edward Larrabee Barnes’ original design, the renovation responds to the Garden’s contemporary goals by converting the Center to an improved public space. This better serves the client’s mission to promote the enjoyment, understanding, and conservation of the natural world.
The relocation of administrative offices and the addition of lower-level offices, built underneath an existing courtyard, allow for the new Lenhardt Library, which contains expanded storage space and a climate-controlled environment for the Garden’s extensive rare book collection. Courtyards display a world-renowned bonsai collection, and halls and galleries are added for exhibitions. Waterproofing the exterior space from the new interior spaces below required careful coordination, which was further complicated because the new construction sits below the water table.
The renovated building re establishes the original concept of connected interior spaces that provide fluidity for exhibitions and education, while maintaining and restoring original materials.