This year’s Chicago Architecture Biennial, The Available City, encourages active community participation in city design by repurposing vacant lots across the city.
September 23rd, 2021
The term “vacant lots” often carries negative connotations, symbolising abandoned or dangerous locations, and consequently decay. The Chicago Architecture Biennial (CAB) is flipping the script on this impression by using vacant lots to stimulate creativity and renew urban areas.
Chicago has struggled with an increase in vacant land since the 1970s, an issue generally attributed to economic and population decline.
This year’s CAB, The Available City, is spread across eight neighbourhoods in Chicago, harnessing the potential of the city’s ten thousand-plus city-owned vacant lots that are mainly in the South and West neighbourhoods and are predominantly inhabited by brown and black communities.
By reinvigorating vacant lots, cities have the opportunity to encourage a better quality of life for their residents, according to research by Gunwoo Kim. This potential is being utilised by CAB, where the urban design is purposefully aimed at responding to the needs of communities and neighbourhoods.
Site specific structures, some temporary and some permanent, have been constructed on multiple vacant lots. The structures have been realised through collaborative design processes between architects, artists and community organisations from over 80 countries.
Artistic director of the Chicago Architecture Biennial, David Brown, developed a long-term project exploring the potential of vacant lots in America, of which the Biennial is the latest and largest iteration.
“Exploring the potential of The Available City has been a central focus for me for over a decade, and it is a fantastic opportunity to explore its ideas with global and local architects, designers, thinkers, and community leaders within the Biennial’s platform,” says Brown.
“Our work is really just beginning – the Biennial is an open conversation on possibility, and I am excited to see what ideas, collaborations, and partnerships emerge from this forum.”
The program is raising important questions for the international architecture community around who participates in the design of a city, who society excludes from this participation and why this should become more inclusive.
Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot said they were “thrilled” to be able to bring a conversation about the potential for vacant spaces to a global platform.
The Chicago Architecture Biennial is currently running until October 31.
Chicago Architecture Biennial
Keep up to date with the latest and greatest from our industry BFF's!
Bidding farewell to mundane and uninspired office spaces, colour has transformed our workplaces into layered and engaging environments. So we sit down with Karina Simpson, Hot Black’s Workplace Lead, to talk about the influence colour has on the workspace landscape through the prism of Herman Miller’s progressive colour philosophy.
Durable and adaptable seating creates dynamic teaching and learning environments at the new Centre for Creative Industries at St Andrew’s Lutheran College.
According to Le Corbusier, the struggle for it underpins the history of architecture. Frank Lloyd Wright described it as a “beautifier of buildings”. And Motoko Ishii famously equated it to life itself. Indispensable, life-affirming and metamorphic, light underpins all architectural and design efforts.
Whether it’s enhancing the sculptural volumes of the Cass Bay House, or creating a Piet Mondrian-like geometrical feature across the Pegasus Bay’s Esplanade Home, Neolith helps Massimiliano Capocaccia Architecture Studio augment the imaginative language of these coastal dwellings.
An in-depth look at the history and evolution of the iconic skyscraper design; from 10-storey origins to a century-long competition to be named the tallest building.
A sports-themed workplace design by THOSE Architects for Ansarada in Chicago uses plenty of interesting products. This is the FF&E.
The internet never sleeps! Here's the stuff you might have missed
Australian architect and Conrad Gargett principal Dale Swan laments the lack of design culture in some practices across the country. According to Dale, it’s often what leads promising young architects and designers to exit such studios.
With a little buff and polish, as well as some expert joinery, boutique architectural studio Fabric Architecture has brought warmth and tactility into these law offices.
Le Coq Wine & Bistro, Taikooli by RooMoo offers a twist on the usual restaurant and bar experience. Visitors to the Shanghai venue can explore the process of wine production through a reinterpreted spatial design.
In the post-COVID world of work, trust and wellness have become key. Gray Puksand’s senior associates, Lauren Oneile and Francesca Moccia, discuss the needs of people, the imperatives of workplace environments, and design’s role in the complex equation.