The Art of Design


2016 Merit Award


Chicago, IL


Chicago Department of Transportation



Landscape Architects

Project Details

The Michigan Avenue medians in Chicago were constructed and are managed by the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT). The Chicago River naturally separates the Michigan Avenue into two segments within the Central Business District; south to Roosevelt Road and north to Oak Street on the Magnificent Mile. The renowned median seasonal displays have continuously provided a lush and transformative effect on the streetscape and are considered a prime example of planting design as an aesthetic as well as an economic engine.

In 2016, the landscape design changed hands for the first time in the medians’ history, and with it came a new concept twist; the planting plan would be influenced by an artist to commemorate the recent designation of the southern half of Michigan Avenue as the “Cultural Mile.”

Kris Sorich, Senior Landscape Architect with CDOT, reached out to potential Michigan Avenue institutions and finally partnered with the Chicago Cultural Center who was showcasing a Chicago artist’s retrospective for three months over the summer of 2016. Essential to the collaboration was the ability to provide space for a series of interpretive boards introducing art patrons to the design approach and ultimately to landscape architecture as a discipline.

Through artist interviews, studio visits, and analysis, four boards were created and installed within the Phyllis Bramson exhibit entitled “Under the Pleasure Dome.” The underlying purpose of the presentation was to guide and gain insights rather than to be conclusive. Through graphics and text, the methods of landscape architecture are exposed while providing enlightenment as to the process behind the final outcome.

A self-guided tour was created to further pique curiosity and to get visitors physically moving from the exhibit to the outdoors and back again. Tour maps were conveniently stacked beneath the presentation boards for this purpose.

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