Civic and Commercial Projects

Chicago Botanic Garden

Great Basin & Evening Island

Glencoe, IL • Ongoing since 1997


Oehme, van Sweden & Associates
Wolfgang Oehme
James van Sweden

This commission was of considerable importance to both the firm and the client. Barbara Whitney Carr, retired president of the Chicago Botanic Garden, recalled, “The design of Evening Island and the Gardens of the Great Basin were at the very heart of the garden both literally and symbolically.” Moreover, “the view [to be created] … was to be an iconic vista.”[1]

After van Sweden’s presentation for the project, in which he said he was inspired by the colors and composition of the painting Nature Abhors a Vacuum by Helen Frankenthaler, an artist beloved by the project’s lead patron, Pleasant Rowland, Carr said, “We knew this man understood our vision, knew he could create something we could only dream of, and that NOTHING could make him happier than to do it for us.” She added: “Now when Chicago Botanic Garden visitors look out toward Evening Island, they see a classic New American Garden landscape.”[2]


The gardens were dedicated in 2002. The public has been wild about them ever since. There have been many imitators since, but Jim’s originality continues to shine through.[2]

Kris S. Jarantoski


Learn More

  • 1000 Lake Cook Road
    Glencoe, IL 60022

Chicago Botanic Garden website

The Artful Garden. see resources

See What's Out There Profile


[1] “Reflections on Jim van Sweden by Barbara Whitney Carr, August 2010,”, last modified October 2, 2010.

[2] “Reflections by Kris S. Jarantoski, Executive Vice-President & Director, Chicago Botanic Garden, August 2010,”, last modified October 2, 2010.





The Photographers

Nate Mathews (American, b. 1982)
Mathews received his M.F.A. in photography from Columbia College Chicago in 2008 and is currently an assistant professor of photography at Northeastern Illinois University. His work has been shown at the Rockford Art Museum in Rockford, Illinois, in the exhibition Four by Five at the New Orleans Photo Alliance, and at the Noyes Cultural Arts Center in Evanston, Illinois. He recently curated The Space Between, a photographic exhibition at the Fine Art Center Gallery at Northeastern Illinois University.