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Ryerson Woods Visitor Center

Lake Forest, IL

Completed 2005

LEED Platinum


The site at Ryerson Woods is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is one of the best examples of a northern flatwoods forest, a rare northern Illinois landscape. The 552-acre preserve supports some of Illinois’ most pristine woodlands and several state threatened and endangered species. It offers 6.5 miles of scenic trails for hiking or cross country skiing that wind through a stately forest to the quiet Des Plaines River, for hiking or cross country skiing.

As a model of green architecture, the new Welcome Center houses an extensive natural science library and a children’s nature library. Many nature programs and special events are held throughout the year for families, adults, children, teachers and community groups.

Designed to blend with the existing farm aesthetic while recognizing its contemporary roots, the exterior incorporates the use of familiar materials (vertical siding & metals roofs) and forms (roof ventilators) to remind visitors of the barns that were historically found around the area. At the same time, new forms like the horizontal siding, the form of which was abstracted from corn cribs, incorporate the latest ideas on rain screen envelope design point to a building looking forward to provide the highest level of user comfort and utility possible for staff & visitors.

The building was designed to minimize the negative environmental impact and reduce operating costs though the implementation of a high performance, energy efficient envelope, natural daylighting and rainwater collection systems. Made possible in part by an Illinois Clean Energy grant, this project incorporates additional environmentally sensitive design concepts such as displacement ventilation, geo-thermal heat pumps and energy efficient fixtures.

The building materials were selected because they cause less environmental impact to produce or transport, and create a healthier indoor environment for visitors, staff and volunteers.

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