Garden Features

Highlights of the garden include the dramatically lit, 15-foot-high “shoulder” hedge. This physical representation of Sandburg’s famous description of the “City of Big Shoulders” encloses the garden on two sides and protects the delicate perennial garden from the throngs of concert-goers to and from the bandshell. This structure exemplifies the unusual strength and structure of this Chicago garden, where plants rise taller than people.

Light Plate

The Light Plate renders the future in an exhilarating landscape. The Light Plate is bold, warm, dry and bright. Unlike the volume of the Dark Plate, in which a person feels enveloped, the Light Plate is a contoured, controlled plane experienced by walking on its surface.

The Light Plate, referencing Chicago’s modern and artistic control of nature, provides an exhilarating experience of surveying a bright and clean, controlled landscape.

Dark Plate

Strong, nostalgic, mysterious and cool, the Dark Plate expresses the early landscape history of the site and the city. The site was once a wild shoreline and river delta. The challenging character and lush feeling of this historic condition is in dramatic contrast to the current elevation and form of Millennium Park.

The Dark Plate bursts with lush, subtly toned vegetation that immerses the visitor in a setting of unbridled growth and soft, filtered light. The muted tones and diverse textures of the Dark Plate serve as a dramatic, framing foreground to the smooth, bright Light Plate on the other side.

Boardwalk and Water Features

The Boardwalk floats over stepped pools, leaving a 5′ wide exposed surface of water along the Dark Plate’s vertical stone face (the Seam Wall). The Boardwalk is built of sturdy Ipe wood and is designed as a strolling path as well as a place to gather.

A 24″ wide step runs along the entire length of the Boardwalk reducing the distance from the pool to the walking surface. The step also becomes a casual seating opportunity for visitors to experience the water in a more intimate manner.


The Seam is the special corridor or “break” between the two Plates. It is not a thoroughfare, but rather a place to casually stroll. The Seam is where the past and future of Chicago exist face-to-face, on either side of the pedestrian traveling along the Boardwalk.

The orientation of the Seam expresses the angle of the various historic retaining walls beneath the site, which created boundaries between the lake and the land.

Shoulder Hedge

A giant, muscular hedge encloses the interior Garden from the north and west. From the Art Institute, the “big shoulders” of the Shoulder Hedge appear to support the gleaming “headdress” of the Pritzker Pavilion to the north.

The Hedge is a living wall that protects the delicate perennials within the garden from heavy pedestrian traffic moving throughout Millennium Park. It is defined and structured by a metal framework, or Armature, that shapes several types of plant material into one monumental hedge feature.

The Armature, averaging 14′ tall, provides a simple and permanent clipping guide for precisely maintaining the curved profile of the mature Shoulder Hedge. As the Hedge materials grow, visitors can watch the plants develop into their full form, filling the Armature structure.

The Extrusion Plaza

The Extrusion Plaza is an extension of the existing north-south circulation spine through Millennium Park. It links Monroe Street and the southwest Exelon Pavilion with The Lurie Garden and continues north toward the Pritzker Pavilion and the rest of Millennium Park.

As a primary circulation corridor, the Extrusion Plaza design references the movement of the industry specific to the site and region – railroad, shipping, etc.


At night, Lurie Garden transforms into a subtly glowing “container” of light. The Shoulder Hedge acts as the solid container to this soft and magical night scene. This focuses anticipation and attention on those special openings and pathways that break the form of the Hedge and allow the inviting, interior light to be seen.

The pathways are brightly lit by in-ground fixtures through openings in the Shoulder Hedge.