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Finalists announced for a housing ideas competition in Chicago

Design competitions are a funny exercise: Invite architects to produce thoughtful and visually interesting drawings without compensation, convene a jury to decide which ones are the best, and then write a press release announcing the winners. It’s a relatively commonplace activity used in Chicago that, on one hand, has yielded the Tribune Tower; and on the other, has resulted in thousands of foamcore boards in the dumpster. Earlier this year, when the City of Chicago announced an effort to “repo

A career-spanning show of drawings by James Wines

Our era of the Anthropocene is one of never-ending casualties: Humans perish under “once in a generation” weather events nearly yearly, and species collapse is all around us. Meanwhile, Architecture responds with press releases for new, lavish office towers that undoubtedly reach net-zero status. The renderings show sparklingly clear glass, ready to contribute to the 1 billion birds that die each year from window collisions...

In Debt and in the Dark

Klaire Viduya graduated in May from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, with a bachelor’s and a master’s of architecture. Since then, she’s been settling into a job working on education design projects and studying to obtain her license. A first-generation college student and child of working-class immigrants, Viduya found paying for her education challenging. Even though she opted for public school, she was still surprised when she got her first tuition bills. “One thing that I didn’t factor,

For Crows, By Humans

Walter Hood reflects on what corvids can teach us. Crows—although they share a predilection for scavenging human food waste alongside other urban avian “pests” such as pigeons—carry a more mischievous reputation. The National Audubon Society cites their incredible intelligence and documented cases of the birds using tools, holding grudges, and performing funerals. When the COVID-19 pandemic began, Walter Hood, the creative director and founder of Hood Design Studio in Oakland, California, bega

Gone Feral

A review of Natura Urbana: Ecological Constellations in Urban Space by Matthew Gandy. There are more than 30,000 vacant lots in the city of Chicago—remnants of urban renewal’s disastrous execution and disinvestment. Where buildings once stood, acres of new life have emerged. Many of those empty lots have become overgrown—small prairies where remnants of building foundations peek out from plots of seeding grasses; thick, tender lamb’s-quarter; and purple flowering chicory. The lots are home to r

Thompson Center is an adaptive reuse win, but may be a loss for the public

The past few years have demonstrated Big Tech’s desire for brand-new “Big and Loud” buildings. Thankfully, Chicago has remained relatively immune to the trend: Unlike Norman Foster’s Apple Park in Cupertino or Amazon’s “Helix” headquarters in Arlington, Virginia (known for its “poop emoji” helical form), tech companies in Chicago have maintained a conservative architectural footprint that, surprisingly, has relied on existing building stock. Google, the most prominent of those tech giants, lande

Reconsidering Public Housing in America

The National Public Housing Museum is pluralizing the program’s mythic narrative When Lisa Yun Lee brought some early visitors to the former Jane Addams Homes in Chicago’s Little Italy neighborhood—the future site of the National Public Housing Museum (NPHM)—the site was derelict, vacant since the low-rise public housing development was shuttered in 2002. The painted walls had peeled, leaving cracks and paint chips in the rooms. “People would look at it and be like, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s so beautif

American Framing exposes nation’s long-concealed construction method

I went to Wrightwood 659 to find America. Not like Paul Simon—it wasn’t a regional trek from Saginaw with Kathy. We can’t smoke on buses anymore, anyway. Instead, I boarded the 66 headed east and transferred to the 8 at Halstead to view an exhibition at the gallery: American Framing. The show was originally mounted last year as the Pavilion of the United States at the 17th Venice Architecture Biennale and afterward traveled (also not by Greyhound) to the Tadao Ando–designed gallery tucked away o

Chicago’s INVEST South/West yields early initial projects, but not without communication breakdowns along the way

The City of Chicago calls ISW a “global model for urban revitalization.” According to a press release from November 2021, there has been approximately $1.4 billion in investments so far, including $750 million in city funds, $575 million in corporate and philanthropic commitments, and $300 million in planned mixed-use projects. Accounting for the last figure is a series of RFPs issued by the city over the past two years to developers and architects for the redevelopment of sites along commercial

Climate Migration: Imagining adaptable infrastructures as Latin America prepares for an increase in environmental refugees

Infrastructure, in conventional imaginations, exists as a tool of permanence: bridges, roads, sidewalks, and utilities are eternal public goods. Climate change has challenged that reality; extreme, less predictable climates have generated new discourses in adaptation and flexibility as core components of infrastructural resilience in the face of uncertain futures. Design Critics in Urban Planning and Design, Soledad Patiño and Felipe Vera are approaching the notion of adaptable, flexible

Designing More Welcoming Streets? Bring in the Teens

This story was produced by City Bureau and co-published by the Chicago Reader. On a chilly Saturday morning in November, a dozen teens packed into a repurposed storefront in Austin, a neighborhood in the city’s Far West Side. The storefront sits across from a stretch of Chicago Avenue that is peppered with vacant lots –– sparse teeth in an otherwise toothless grin of long-lost buildings. Inside, the walls were covered with sketches, drawings, and layers of colorful sticky notes. Jacara Walker,

Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture’s expansion of the Steppenwolf Theatre brings the backstage to the house

Spending closing night of A Christmas Carol in the company of theater geeks—but not being one myself—I watched enviously as my peers galloped and hollered at the cast party in our high school theater backstage. They navigated around strange machineries, like lights and scaffolds and a forest of ropes dangling from ethereal catwalks, disappearing behind doors to reemerge on stage; they knew where all the trapdoors were. Theaters, I learned from this close vantage, are places for architectural mag
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