SPIDER ISLAND
Chicago, IL (1999–2000)
Spider Island is a quarter-acre landscape—one of twenty gardens and landscapes making up the Chicago Botanic Garden (CBG) collection. A donor gave the Spider Island garden in memory and honor of his wife, a naturalist. The only program requirement was that the garden’s spirit be natural and the plantings primarily native. For CBG, the terms of this gift offered the opportunity to give the public an example of a landscape of irregular naturally-inspired forms, and to highlight native plants that thrive in wet soil conditions.

Spider Island provides a simple and enfolding journey in a design that encompasses movement, phenomena, and experience. The existing site was a nearly flat peninsula. In addition to removing the isthmus to form an island, MVVA created two small hills, raising the grade by as much as ten feet. The entry path, which extends from an ADA-compliant boardwalk footbridge, curves sharply between the hills as you enter the island. The water level around the island can fluctuate by five feet, so the design introduced an emergent vegetative edge that would thrive within this variability. As one moves along the segmented spiral walk at the island’s far edge, a view of the surrounding water is emphasized, though veiled by trees. At the end of the path, a stone sitting area is enclosed with evergreens.

Spider Island received a 2002 ASLA Design Merit Award.
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