A farm in Milford, Indiana; a design/
build firm in Peoria; English formal
gardens; and Chicago cityscapes—these
seemingly unconnected spaces led Douglas
Hoerr to become a leading landscape
architect of projects that continue to grow
in scale and impact.
The Milford native worked for nine years
in Peoria before heading overseas, where
his career was hugely influenced by a
two-year apprenticeship with three of
Britain’s most respected garden designers.
When he returned from England in 1990,
he established his own company in Chicago.
While beautiful gardens grow more
easily in other regions, Hoerr understood
the Midwest horticulturally, and he thought
Chicago would be fair to an entrepreneur.
He marketed himself by speaking at garden
clubs and botanical gardens. His big break
came with a design for the Crate & Barrel
store on Michigan Avenue. It caught the
mayor’s eye, and Hoerr landed the
beautification of Chicago’s Magnificent Mile.
He approached the job with trepidation.
That portion of Michigan Avenue—the
main thoroughfare between Chicago’s
Loop business district and its Gold Coast—
was concrete from curb to curb.
Merchants donated the funds that allowed
Hoerr to create raised medians filled with
naturalistic blends of enormous scale,
complexity, and texture.
He has since built a reputation for
socially responsible and environmentally
sustainable public open spaces. He is a
strong proponent of green roofs. His
“signature” is a final product that looks
connected to the architecture on the site as
well as to the greater landscape: “It looks
honest,” he explains.
He partnered with Peter Schaudt in
January 2008 to create his current
practice. Hoerr’s work and philosophy
have been introduced to millions of
readers in national publications, and he
has designed more than 500 private
gardens across the United States.
He maintains his own formal rooftop
garden at his Chicago-area home and
naturalistic, layered gardens at a 100-acre
farm in Michigan. Other escapes include
hunting and golf. Hoerr and his wife Tracy
Taylor have two children, ages 10 and 6.
“Purdue gave me that balance of skills and how to think
things through—I can conceptualize very rapidly and at the
same time, I’m a builder. I hire a lot of Purdue interns and
staff because I like the way Purdue educates them; they come
out of West Lafayette with ‘batteries included.’”