Building upon the urban exploration of vacancy proposed in The Available City project by David Brown, nine Chicago-based teams present their own responses to the issue at stake. Employing drawings and models, each project investigates the architectural possibilities of vacancy, with a specific focus on the role of collective spaces and the relationships they can foster. Diverse in their location, scale, program, and aesthetic sensibility, these projects ultimately demonstrate that we can leverage vacancy to generate new architectural scenarios that have the potential to address current social and economic issues.
During the height of South Chicago’s population, the US Steel South Works Plant was the primary source of jobs in the area. When the plant shut down in 1992, the population decreased drastically. Job markets today are slowly realizing a maker/seller platform, resulting in a variety of small cottage industries. Workforce development that specifically addresses trade skills that benefit these industries has become an essential amenity that is needed in many neighborhoods.
These smaller industries are selling products that require workspace to translate into objects heir often innovative ideas. As a Response to David Brown’s “collective space” proposal, Landon Bone Baker has developed a neighborhood-specific strategy to activate five adjacent vacant lots with affordable micro-housing units, indoor and outdoor maker spaces, a shared community kitchen, and a market area. Just as the US Steel South Works Plant provided jobs for people who created steel, this conjunction of amenities in South Chicago will house the new generation of makers and creators.
Together with Claretian Associates, we asked, ‘What does a community of choice look like?’ and envisioned a place that puts the needs, desires, and strengths of South Chicago, and most importantly, its young people at the center of the equation. Architects can aid in the development of innovative and community-driven solutions if possessed with a real willingness to engage.
While slower and more complicated, a bottom-up approach proves to be most resilient and empowers communities to define the help they need. Chicago’ s policies can support this approach by bringing vision, leadership, and commitment to planning and asking for the neighborhood’s contribution and wisdom.
Landon Bone Baker Architects
Peter Landon, Jeff Bone, Catherine Baker, Jack Schroeder, Trisha Girdwood, Dominik Soltys, Tyler Brown, Claudia Rodriguez, Terran Wilson, Josh Mings, Hope Dinsmore, Philip Schmidt, Maya Bird-Murphy, Cameron Acheson, Joseph Altshuler, Fariha Wajid, Brenda Gamboa, Michael Wu, Jungsik Kim, and Yona Chung.