Austin Gardens Environmental Education Center


This Park project included a nature-based preschool, a meeting hall with a view to the park, and support for the Oak Park Festival Theater and winter skating. All of this was to be housed in a building of utmost energy efficiency, with water collection for toilet flushing, geothermal heat pump heating and cooling, rooftop solar photo-voltaic electricity production, and landscaping featuring a learning garden, rain gardens, native plantings, and outdoor gathering space. The interior features wood trim of ash, milled from a tree that died from Emerald Ash Borer last year in one of the Park District of Oak Park’s parks. The building was conceived as an embodiment of the native oak savanna: with a tall canopy facing the park and a low, dense enclosure against the alley, a sense of prospect and refuge is created.



Park District of Oak Park


Landscape Architect
Carol Yetken Landscape Design


Structural Engineer
Goodfriend Magruder Structure


M/E/P Engineer
Architectural Consulting Engineers


Construction Management
Tim Kelly Construction


Third-party Testing and Verification
WMA Engineers


Hausman Photography


Energy Use
pEUI = 0, 100% reduction


Winner, Cavalcade of Pride Awards, Oak Park Community Design Commission, 2016
Winner, Frank Lloyd Wright Award for New Design, AIA Illinois, 2017
Named AIA Illinois’ 200 Great Places, 2018


Chicago Architect, January/February, 2020, “Facade: Austin Gardens Environmental Education Center”
Illinois Parks and Recreation Magazine, March/April 2017,
“Austin Gardens Environmental Education Center: Green in Every Way”
Wednesday Journal, November 8, 2016,
“An educated environmental center”
Chicago Tribune, June 6, 2016,
“Austin Gardens education center to open Saturday”