Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

Chicago, Illinois
Gateway to Nature and Science

It’s easy to lose sight of the grass and trees when living in a city. It’s even easier to lose sight of nature’s power to heal. The experience of being in nature provides benefits to our physical, mental and spiritual well-being—whether it is lowering our stress levels, releasing endorphins, or just providing a beautiful space to create a memory with a friend. The Chicago Academy of Sciences, dedicated to connecting man with nature since 1857, desired a museum in the heart of Chicago’s Lincoln Park that could connect people with nature in an urban environment that expands on the museum’s existing exhibits. The award-winning Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum lives and breathes the mission of the Chicago Academy of Sciences: to provide easy access to the vast, impressive natural history of the Midwest.

A natural stone wall and stone paving mark the entry to the transparent lobby, and beyond the lobby, a ravine with native plants connects the museum to the pond. Every part of the museum is designed to bring its guests closer to a deeper connection to nature while creating beautiful memories.

Historical landscape references
The angular masses housing the exhibits recall the shifting sand dunes that existed on the site before it was converted to park in the late 19th century.
Architectural design

The design emphasizes the connection and interdependence of natural and human-made environments. The angular masses suggest an abstraction of geological layers, similar to Alfred Caldwell’s interpretation of the formation of the Midwest bedrock in his Rookery across the street.

What it is
A museum designed to showcase the relationship between humanity and nature.
Landscape integration
The museum’s entry is through an incision in the landscape, emphasizing the building’s integral and organic relationship with the site.
Environmental connection
A ravine with native planting physically and visually connects the museum to the pond.
Landscape design

The new landscape design, which can be experienced from inside and outside, recreates several natural communities around the building, from pond to woodland slope, to native prairie on the south facing slope. The museum is an educational tool and a metaphor for the relationship between man and nature.

Project Team

Ralph Johnson
Thomas Mozina