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Design firm selected for Midewin learning center

Two integrated, open-air visitor/education area to be constructed at Tallgrass Prairie

WILMINGTON – A design prepared by Chicago architecture firm Wheeler Kearns has been selected as the winning concept for a new Prairie Learning Center at the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie.

The Center will provide badly needed public access to this unique open space south of Chicago.

Wheeler Kearns has proposed an arrangement of rammed earth walls and energy conservation techniques to shape two separate, but integrated, open-air, visitor/education areas to be constructed at the Iron Bridge Trailhead and River Road Seedbeds at Midewin.

The project will be a model of sustainable structure and site design for outdoor recreation and interpretive facilities at Midewin, and will demonstrate cutting-edge sustainable design for visitors, designers, site managers, and public officials.

Three design teams from Chicago architecture firms Holabird & Root, Ross Barney, and Wheeler Kearns were invited to develop the concepts for the Center earlier this year. Each concept was presented in Chicago and at Midewin, and the public was invited to provide thoughtful comments on which designs they favored.

Following the public comment period, the Midewin Burnham Legacy Task Force made a formal recommendation to Prairie Supervisor Wade Spang on Oct. 20. His decision was formally announced Thursday, Nov. 5, at the Burnham Centennial Green Legacy Projects reception at the Spertus Institute in Chicago.

The Task Force was formed by Midewin and Openlands in collaboration with the Chicago metropolitan section of the Illinois Chapter of the American Planning Association , the Illinois Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects , and the Eastern Illinois Chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

“One of Burnham’s enduring legacies is a commitment to preserving the region’s open space and lakefront. Across the region, more than 20 ‘Green Legacy’ projects are under way to close critical gaps in this system,” said Joyce O’Keefe of Openlands, which protects natural and open spaces in northeastern Illinois and the surrounding region.

Midewin is a Green Legacy Project for the Centennial Celebration of the Plan of Chicago.

The year 2009 is the 100th anniversary of the publication of Daniel Burnham’s and Edward Bennett’s “Plan of Chicago,” one of the world’s first and most visible comprehensive regional plans.

Burnham’s admonition to “make no little plans” has been a guiding principle for Chicago and for generations of planners and builders in cities around the globe. One hundred years later, the Burnham Plan still inspires us to be visionary, think regionally, recognize the value of beauty and conservation, and act deliberately to turn our plans into reality for the benefit of all the people of the region.

More than 250 Partners, including museums, professional associations, civic and community organizations, educational institutions and others are collaborating to develop programs that will shape the Centennial and engage a broad audience. For more information, please visit the Web site at

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