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.
Flying Dragon (1975)
by Alexander Calder
Best known as the inventor of the mobile, Alexander Calder also produced many stabiles, or stationary sculptures composed of fixed elements. At first creating on a relatively small scale, Calder moved increasingly toward monumentality in his later work and consequently spearheaded a renaissance in public sculpture during the latter half of the 20th century in both the United States and Europe. Even though colossal stabiles like Flying Dragon (and Flamingo, located at Chicago’s Federal Center Plaza) lack a mobile’s moving parts, they appear just as animated. Flying Dragon’s arching forms and dynamic red surface make this fantastic animal seem to take flight.
Cubi VII (1963)
by David Smith
Self-taught sculptor David Smith developed his welding techniques at an automobile plant and a locomotive factory. His work mixes the style of the American machine shop with surrealism, Abstract Expressionism, and cubism. The Cubi series, composed of 28 separate works, was executed in the four years before the artist’s untimely death. The wire-brushed surface of Cubi VII lends the work its gestural, expressive quality, while the form itself makes the viewer question balance, weight, and positive and negative space.
Large Interior Form (1953/54)
by Henry Moore
Henry Moore’s towering 16-foot sculpture Large Interior Form is among his more mature works, made when the artist was concerned with the construction of three-dimensional space, internal forms within solid volumes, and placing his work in a natural setting. Early in his career, Moore worked primarily in stone but shifted to modeling and bronze casting once these formal concerns took hold. Large Interior Form plays with mass and void, gravity and growth, and man and nature. A complement to Large Upright Internal External Form, Moore’s sculpture in the atrium of Three First National Plaza (at 70 West Madison Street), Large Interior Form, in particular, juxtaposes its natural-looking shape with its man-formed substance.
by Ulrich Rückriem
Ulrich Rückriem worked between 1957 and 1959 as a stonecutter in Düren, Germany, but it wasn’t until several years later that he decided to translate his interest in stone work into art. He visited a quarry and created his first sculpture: a block of dolomite split into five sections and reassembled, much like the work in the North Garden. His works manage to combine a sense of prehistory with procedural art, and Rückriem said of his first experience in the quarry, “I understood the force of the blocks. I didn’t want to weaken it, but rather to intensify it, if anything. . . . I try to grasp the meaning of the space, not to alter it, to follow it, and submit to it.”
Trees include: River Birch American Elm Honeylocust Crab Trees Hackberry Trees
Plants include: Hydrangea Various Hosta Ferns Yews Arborvitae Bottlebrush Buckeye