Until 1960, the museum’s North Garden, at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Monroe Street, was a plain lawn. Following the addition of the B. F. Ferguson Memorial Building in 1958—which then as now held offices for executives, curators, and museum educators, as well as facilities for conservation, museum photography, and packing and shipping—plans were made to install a formal garden on the north side of the historic building. The new garden, a gift from Mrs. Stanley McCormick in memory of her husband, was designed by architects Holabird and Root and Burgee, the same architects who conceived the Ferguson Building. Like that building, the original garden took its inspiration from classical forms with a streamlined, modern twist. Rows of hawthorn trees, beds of flowers, and a pool with spurting jets were arranged in strict geometric patterns, but asymmetrically so.
In 1990, plans were made to reconfigure the garden, switching out the pool and rigid architectural landscaping for a central lawn of organic plantings surrounded by paved walkways and benches. The new design, by Hanna/Olin, also incorporated artworks from the museum’s collection, Alexander Calder’s Flying Dragon and Henry Moore’s Large Interior Form, transforming the space into a true sculpture garden. A further revision of the garden’s plantings was done in 2003 by Jens Jensen, great-great grandson and namesake of the renowned early 20th-century landscape architect and colleague of Frank Lloyd Wright.
Today the garden, with its mature shading trees, sunny lawn, and additional sculptures from the collection, is a welcoming spot for museumgoers before or after their visit, Loop workers on their lunch break, and tourists enjoying the city’s best public spaces.