WE BELIEVE THAT ARCHITECTURE HAS THE POWER TO STRENGTHEN COMMUNITIES
Chicago is make up of 77 "community areas", each of which contain either one or a few neighborhoods. Each neighborhood has a strong community identify due to its location, the people that live there, and the culture that its inhabitants express.
While each neighborhood has its own identities, they are not all equal in terms of resources. Segregation runs deep in Chicago's history, with its south and west sides being disproportionately underfunded and under-resourced compared to the north side communities.
The City of Chicago has recently began its "Invest South/West" program, which aims to revitalize 10 historic neighborhoods on the South and West sides of the city. We applaud the initiative to focus our city's efforts on those struggling areas, but we also are critical of how to help.
The Invest South/West program is a top-down approach - the city holds a competition for architects and developers to be on the shortlist of candidates and they decide the programming and built work that will be constructed on a few selected sites.
We believe in a bottom-up approach, and we always have. We have been working on projects on the south and west sides of Chicago for years now. The way to successfully reinvigorate and help these neighborhoods is to amplify the voices, culture, businesses, and people that already exist there. It is imperative to intervene in an empathetic way.
Below are a few examples of our work on the south and west sides, as well as a description of how we see this project affecting the neighborhood as a whole, for the better.
While a daycare center may appear to simply be a business, the South Shore Daycare Center acts as more than that. Currently under construction, the daycare center will provide a place for the residents of the underserved South Shore neighborhood to drop off their children, giving their parents some peace of mind while they go to work.
Besides creating a space for children to play and bond with one another, the daycare also provides parents the opportunity to run into other community members and develop relationships with them.
Food has the power to bring people together.
Many people start their day with breakfast and a cup of coffee, and the Daly Bagel provides that resource to the people of Oak Park. This community hub provides a place for people to run into one another in a serendipitous way. It is located off of the main strip of other restaurants, filling a previously empty void in the middle of the village.
What does a community center contain? How can we design space for a community? This project is a collection of buildings and park space that houses community resources and public recreation. Mental and physical wellness services are available for all in a safe, welcoming environment. This project provides a space for people to meet, pursue and explore ideas, create art, and test services. Intermingling these programs combines and anchors what makes a plurality of people a good community.
Situated between the village of Oak Park and the Austin neighborhood of Chicago, L!ve Cafe provides a space for members of both of those communities to meet, work, and connect with one another.
Junction Grove is a place for people to view art, meet other creatives, and learn about other cultures and the world around them.
Sugar Beet Co-op was founded by members of the Oak Park community. A group of folks came together with the same goal: to provide a fulll-service, co-op grocery store that would be a source for local, sustainable, healthy foods. The co-op hosts neighborhood events, participates in Farmers Markets, and regularly meets with local organizations and businesses.