A wide shot of a ceramics studio, featuring students working with pottery wheels and other tools.

North Lawndale: Housing, Otherwise

North Lawndale: Housing, Otherwise at the Chicago Architecture Biennial

Last week, students from SAIC participated in a pop-up studio at the Chicago Architecture Biennial. As part of the AIADO class, North Lawndale: Housing, Otherwise, they recreated their workspace from the Nichols Tower (the original Sears Tower) in North Lawndale, where they have been spending the semester exploring new strategies for a better access to affordable housing. The class has analyzed several housing developments in North Lawndale and conducted numerous mapping exercises with the goal of producing new models for housing in under-served neighborhoods. Collaborating with local community organizations, schools, and businesses, the students, divided in three teams with 3 different North Lawndale sites, have listened to the needs of the community and addressed them through their distinct proposals, which they displayed at the pop-up studio in the Chicago Cultural Center last November 11th.  

Visitors to the Biennial gave feedback, and interacted with speculative models. The teams will now synthesize the information gleaned from the Biennial as they continue to develop their proposals, which will be presented to members of the North Lawndale community during the December 15th final review.

North Lawndale: Housing, Otherwise is an initiative sponsored by the SAIC Shapiro Center for Research and Collaboration in partnership with the departments of Architecture, Interior Architecture, and Designed Objects & Historic Preservation. 


Exhibition on View at the Chicago Architecture Biennial Welcome & Learning Center Monday, November

6th - Sunday, November 12th
Chicago Cultural Center
(78 E. Washington St.)
Biennial Welcome & Learning Center
(First Floor Garland Room, 1st Floor South)

Odile Compagnon and Lynette Stuhlmacher's Homan Square class with the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, North Lawndale: Housing, Otherwise will exhibit work by students from the fall semester course along with the work created by local high school students form the course Architecture: Design Your Dream Home

On Friday November 10th, between 10am and 5pm, in a pop-up studio, the students will recreate their Nichols Tower workspace in North Lawndale, and present their visions for better homes to visitors while building empowerment tools for youth and engaging with visionary housing architecture.

Master Classes at North Lawndale

On Friday September 22nd, we held two master classes in the Nichols Tower during our regular scheduled studio time. These were also opened to the SAIC community for other students to attend and all had the incredible opportunity to meet and work first with Pedro Reyes and then with Jana Revedin. In the morning, Pedro Reyes, a visiting artist form Mexico, famous for his social sculptures and participative performances, shared his process to engage the communities he works with, and his methods to rewrite codes, prescriptions, into more meaningful texts, involving, poetry, empathy and whit. Pedro presented in particular his Guns to Shovel project, due to take place the following day as part of a North Lawndale Community event: The Oaks of North Lawndale.

After a hearty lunch shared with the team preparing the mobile foundry for the Saturday event, we welcomed Jana Revedin, European architect and founder of the Global Awards for Sustainable Architecture. Jana explained the theory that drives her practice, her pedagogy and the concept for the global awards. This vision of a Radicant system as a source of sustainability in design stems from Jana observation that by developing ideas, concepts, visions and projects collaboratively, including time and experimentation as assets, we can achieve more inclusive results, and prepare the world better against threats, man made or natural. Jana followed her lecture with an exercise in which the students did a positive analysis of the classroom space to come up with solutions to improve some of its shortcomings. Using the radicant method, their proposals built upon what existed and their collective understanding to propose simple solutions that could be implemented over time. 


Enriched by these two experiences and the many threads they had in common, and after 4 weeks of research and encounters with the people who steer North Lawndale’s community efforts, the studio is now ready to enter its MAKING phase. Working with youths from the neighboring high schools, and with community groups, the SAIC students will develop schemes for three different sites. We want to invite you all to come and give us feed back when we open our pop-up classroom in the Cultural Center as part of the Chicago Architecture Biennial on Friday November 10th, in the Welcome and Learning Center, from 10am to 5pm.

North Lawndale: Housing, Otherwise

2415 AIADO 4938 001
2416 HPRES 5938 001
Faculty: Odile Compagnon and Lynette Stuhlmacher
Friday 9:00 AM - 4:00 PM

This course is for students in art and design interested in understanding the process in which affordable housing is delivered in the US and in Chicago’s North Lawndale neighborhood, in particular. This course will analyze several housing developments in North Lawndale and propose new strategies for the production of affordable housing in under-served neighborhoods, taking advantage of local resources and collaboration with community organizations, schools, and businesses. From feasibility studies to construction details, the studio will aim at answering the following question: how can designers work with local agents, social activists, artists, artisans and contractors to produce quality projects for the general public, ordinary excellence in design for every-day use, and for shared public spaces? 


Students, undergraduates and graduates in architecture, interior architecture and historic preservation as well as from other disciplines (fine arts, graphic design, film, art education, etc) will work together and analyze existing modes of productions and imagine new scenarios. Guest speakers will provide insight in various fields ranging from economic development to architectural design, as well as social practices, historic preservation, construction and real estate. A six hour studio using the SAIC classroom at Nichols Tower, in North Lawndale, will allow students to engage in group discussions, on site urban analysis, report on existing conditions, project design, workshops with community groups, models and prototype building. The studio has been invited by the Chicago Architecture Biennial to participate in a weeklong installation at the Cultural Center. Midway through the semester, we will recreate the Nichols Tower studio classroom at the Cultural Center to allow the North Lawndale community to find a presence in the heart of the Loop. 

In our Chicago Architecture Biennial “pop-up” studio installation, we will exhibit the reading, the interpretation, by North Lawndale: Housing, Otherwise students of the work done this summer with local high school students (from the SAIC Early College Program course Architecture: Design Your Dream Home). Building upon the pop-up experience at the Cultural Center, and the input received, the studio will then find its culmination in a publication of the analysis and proposal as well as an exhibition/round panel discussion to assess the impact of the proposal on excellence in design for every-day use, and shared public spaces.