Thursday, July 30, 2009

CAF Partners with Upward Bound

I recently had the opportunity to work with the Chicago Architecture Foundation on a workshop designed to teach high school students a little something about architecture and planning. CAF partnered with the Upward Bound Program this time, but the format is very similar to that used in the Saturdays in the Studio program, something CAF does every year.

We broke into several groups, each occupying a table and each lead by an architect or planner. Each table was given a map of a different city; Chicago, New York, Dubrovnik, Split and San Francisco. The cities were selected using a proven algorithm defined by whatever maps employees of CAF had brought back with them from their travels.

Each group then outlined the major components onto trace paper. The purpose of this exersise is to get the students to notice the elements that shape a city, both man-made and natural. Each group had to present their findings before we continued the exersise in the atrium using the new Chicago Model City Exhibit.

Now that the students had thoroughly honed their skills in urban observation it was time to put them to use in the real world. Each group was assigned a nearby intersection; my group went to Jackson and Michigan. We pointed out the stark contrast between the west side with the Michigan Ave wall and the other with the Art Institute and the park. What amazed me was the amount of infrastructure packed into about 4 blocks; our intersection had an entrance and exit ramp to the underground parking below, a pedestrian elevator to access that parking, a littler further east the Metra lines ran under Jackson and to the west is a Brownline stop. I tend to take theses things for granted when they’re running smoothly I suppose.

This was one session of Upward Bound's summer program. This particular program is designed for students interested in pursuing a career in architecture, planning, civil engineering, etc. and runs for about 8 weeks this summer. Before they met with us at CAF they were touring IIT's College of Architecture. More information.

It was an easy fit for the CAF people who run the Saturdays in the Studio program. Check out this year's schedule. If you're interested in volunteering please contact Krisann Rehbein.

Friday, July 17, 2009

CAF Seeks New Docents

The Chicago Architecture Foundation is seeking new docents for their 2010 class. Docents are volunteers who provide architecture tours in Chicago's downtown, surrounding neighborhoods like Wicker Park or Beverly and suburbs like Evanston. Potential docents should attend one of two open houses to learn about the process of becoming a docent: Thursday, August 13, 6– 7pm and Saturday, August 22, 10 – 11 am at the Chicago Architecture Foundation, 224 South Michigan Avenue. More information.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Can Intern Architects Work for Free to Get IDP Experience?

Under federal law, the answer is "no".

An interesting read here.

The author made me think of an interesting concept; how can we establish the projects we do at Architecture for Humanity Chicago so that young architects can still get IDP credits? I only mention AFH because that's about the only organization I know of locally that could accommodate the requirements. I'll have to pose that question at the next AFH meeting on July 21st at 6:30pm at Brehon Pub.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Archi-treasures Design Charette at Legends South

I recently had the opportunity to participate in one of Archi-treasures' community charettes. This one took place at a mixed-income community called Legends South located at about the 4000 block of S. State St. Archi-treasures has worked with Legends South once before which is nice for two reasons; they were familiar with the community, and there was lots to do since they had only worked with them once before.

The event was well organized, after 13 years they have it down to a tee. Coffee and donuts were a welcome provision to keep our energy levels up through the morning. We started with table introductions. The residents at my table ranged in age from high school students to a lady whose age I won't attempt to guess for fear of retribution. But, overall I would say there was a great sampling of ages from early grade school to grandparents.

We then moved on to site analysis, beginning by ensuring everyone knew how to read the site plan provided. Asking team members to identify their homes is a good start. From here we identified the site elements we liked and disliked, and then proceeded to a brainstorming session of ideas for elements to be built.

The invited architects or artists are asked to facilitate versus create. The intent is to allow the community members to come up with the ideas while the architect or artist perhaps asks questions to help coax those ideas out. It’s easy to forget at first.

The brainstormed list was then prioritized and only then were the ideas drawn on paper by my team members. The drawings and maps needed to be presented by each team at the end. During the presentations a master list tallying the ideas was created and from there you could see, in some cases, many things repeated.

Archi-treasures uses this list to find the most popular (and buildable) items. These will be the things that get built over the summer work program and range in scope from mosaic stepping stones to benches to an outdoor projection stand and screen to view movies.
One of the nice things about this program is that youths from the community are hired to build the most popular (and feasible) projects over the summer. Many of the youths participating in the charette were also interviewing for one of these paid positions.

I really liked that the community members were engaged. For example, when I arrived, it was determined we wouldn't tour the site as we normally would due to rain. However, about an hour into the brainstorming session one of the members of my team asked if we would be willing to tough it out so she could get a better idea of the areas of the community we were talking about.

Archi-treasures doesn’t always work with residential communities. They’ve worked with schools and other public spaces with community groups. They also do some youth development projects by taking youths from some of these communities to UIC, for example. One of these communities is only a 5 minute walk from UIC and most of the youths have never been.

The communities Archi-treasures work with usually have some connection to a member of the board. For example, the firm of Landon Bone Baker was the architect for the Legends South development. Pete Landon participated in the charette and a representative of the developer was on hand as I’m sure they see the value of this type of community involvement.

Check out their website for more information on projects, photos, and upcoming volunteer opportunities. I’ll be posting photos of my experience soon so check back for that. Archi-treasures always has volunteer opportunities and another round of charettes is planned for later this summer. Keep an eye on the sidebar. Until then, you can purchase tickets and attend their fundraiser, Jewels in July happening on the 15th.