Bonner Heritage Farm

Harvesting Play
A 2,500-pound chicken and 14-foot-tall cow welcome visitors to Bonner Heritage Farm located about 50 miles north of Chicago.

Crafted out of inch-thick plate steel these sculptures pair representation with presentation and bring the local forest preserve educational programming to life. The silhouettes forge a kinship to the traditions of metal craft that were critical to everyday farm-life and are left to rust within the landscape akin to old farm machinery. As guideposts to interactive nodes, the cutouts are playful and purposeful; a benefit of their exaggerated scale is their visibility from afar attracting those driving by.

Transforming the neglected 150-year old family farm required an unconventional design approach. The visual aesthetic of a Midwestern farm is celebrated through the creation of engaging outdoor exhibits and the careful restoration of the 1850’s farmhouse, barns and silos. The interactive pathway and the exhibits help children understand the beauty and architecture of the big barns, foster an understanding of the rigors of farming, and nurture environmental awareness. Activities include collaborative barn-raising, enabling children to raise wall panels using a pulley system, and a garden maze where kids get muddy, plant, play, and explore. Even the outhouse was restored, providing a humorous exploration of solid waste disposal in pre-plumbing eras. Accessibility, educational message, and humor were of paramount concern and are addressed through design details and fabrication. Bonner Heritage Farm is a safe hands-on reflection of the agrarian past with larger-than-life vitality encouraging children to visit over and over again.

Awards:  Achievement Award, NACo (The National Association of Counties), 2006.
Award given to recognize the Bonner Heritage Farm as a vibrant, community-based facility that preserves and presents an important story in Lake County’s history to the public.
:  Lake County Forest Preserves
Architecture, Exhibit Design & Interpretive Programming:
  Architecture Is Fun, Inc.
Historic Preservation:
  Carow Architects Planners
:  Completed Phase 1 & 2 2006.  Phase 3 Concept Design Complete.
:  © Doug Snower Photography