Swell and Swale

In January of 2021, we (Laura Miracle and I) were contracted by the Forest Preserves of Cook County for detail design and installation of an Earth Art Landscape Feature for the Sand Ridge campus. The piece created a unique opportunity for us to explore the intersection of interpretive nature exhibits and large scale public art. The installation was intended as a stylized interpretation of the dune/swale geology of the Calumet Region and the way that sand dunes are formed by wind, water and time. It represents a series of sand dunes, cut in cross section to reveal striated color bands of earth that form a dune. Beginning with a concept design by SpaceHaus (http://www.spacehaus.net/), we (Laura Miracle and I) led the detail design development process, researching how dunes are formed, and considering how the geology of the larger landscape could be made more visible to walkers and bikers along the Burnham Greenway trail.  Our design development process prioritized the interpretive value of the piece, ecological design, formal integrity, and a harmonious integration with the surrounding landscape. The dunes are oriented to align with the greater topography and wind patterns of the area.

The Sand Ridge Nature Preserve and the Green Lake Savanna are remnant, high quality examples of the dune and swale landscape that resulted from the retreat of ancient Lake Michigan. 

6′ high x 40′ wide x 30′ deep.

Earth, pigmented lime plaster, segmental block retaining wall, limestone gravel

General Contractors and Sculptors:

Jamie Topper, Samara Woodcraft and Design LLC jamietopper.com and Laura Miracle, Miracle Works LLC  lauramiracle.com/

Concept Design by Spacehaus, Inc spacehaus.net/

Science and interpretive direction: Sand Ridge Nature Center, special thanks to Stephen DeFalco


Civil Engineering: EVA Design and Engineering  eva-eng.com/

Structural Engineering: Christopher B. Burke Engineering Ltd.  cbbel.com/

Landscaping and retaining wall construction: Pan-Oceanic Inc  panoceanicinc.com/

The Forest Preserve was awarded a grant from the Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development (OSLAD) fund, from the Illinois Dept of Natural Resources, for the development of exhibits at Sand Ridge.