The Chicago Botanic Garden has officially opened its state-of-the-art Regenstein Learning Center designed by local architecture firm Booth Hansen. The new 26,700-square-foot structure not only houses new classrooms, but serves as a hub for the garden’s larger educational campus by connecting to existing exhibit areas, growing plots, and outdoor play spaces. Meanwhile, newly created Tolkien-esque "Rolling Hills" present youngsters with an alternative to Illinois’ otherwise pancake-like topography.
Striving for LEED Platinum certification, the Regenstein Learning Center was built with maximum sustainability and efficiency in mind and utilizes solar panels as well as rainwater capture and storage mechanisms. According to Booth Hansen principal Charlie Stetson, who headed the $28 million project, the building was also specifically designed to maximize natural sunlight.
"One of the great things about the Center is they will hardly ever need to turn the lights on," explains Stetson. "Sloping glass ‘light scoops’ capture light and direct it deep into the building. All lighting is on monitors so they automatically turn off if not needed. This results in a very efficient lighting design that saves energy."
The new facility will use its indoor and outdoor classrooms for a wide variety of educational programming designed to appeal to toddlers, seniors, and all visitors in between. Free classes and seminars cover topics related gardening, cooking, and art. Yoga and additional wellness programming will also be on offer.