Design
Impact Grants

The Design Impact Grant Program offers annual project-specific grants to individuals and organizations using design or design principles to directly address pressing issues in Chicago communities. We are thrilled to announce our 2020 Grant Recipients: Chicago Mobile Makers and Maplewood Housing for the Visually Impaired. We also would like to recognize 7 additional projects for their outstanding work, ideas and efforts.

The 2020 Grantees

Grant Recipient: Chicago Mobile Makers

Chicago Mobile Makers was founded in 2017 by Maya Bird-Murphy who grew up in Oak Park and was no stranger to Chicago’s injustices in the built environment. When she went to architecture school, she quickly found out that she was one of the few people of color and she would go on to graduate as the only African American person in the class of about 80 students. Working in the field was no different than her experience in school. Maya started Chicago Mobile Makers to begin addressing these issues. The Design Impact Grant will support the Chicago Mobile Makerspace, a retrofitted USPS delivery van to be transformed into a classroom, tool shop, design studio, gallery, and community gathering space for Chicago youth. Design education programs - including meaningful design thinking, problem-solving, and skill-building workshops - will be able to be held anywhere the facility on wheels can travel, from an empty lot to a parking lot to a summer street festival. The project's long term objective is to help create the next generation of civically minded and responsible designers, architects, makers, and doers for a city built by, and for, all.

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Grant Recipient: Maplewood Housing for the Visually Impaired, dba Friedman Place

Maplewood Housing, known as Friedman Place, is a non-profit supportive living community in Chicago for adults who are blind or visually impaired. It has been highly successful in its design of space that promotes the independence and self-determination of its residents. The Design Impact Grant will support an awareness campaign of design best practices which foster the independence and self-determination of people who are blind or visually impaired. The campaign will be made available to design students, educators and current designers and will feature how incorporating senses other than vision into design can be low cost, simple to implement, and thoughtful ways to create more inclusive communities in Chicago and around the world. The campaign will be based on Friedman Place’s buildings which were not designed for people who are blind or visually impaired, but have been modified with their needs in mind.

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Special Recognition: Boxville

The Boxville shipping container mall has become a breakout success on Chicago’s South Side. Established in June 2017 with five 20 foot shipping containers at 51st Street and the CTA Green Line, it built upon the legacy of the Bronzeville BikeBox which brought the first container to this site in 2014 and showed that a small, well-designed, container-based initiative can begin to change our community’s narrative of disinvestment, blight, and crime. Growing to thirteen containers by 2019, Boxville is a uniquely accessible neighborhood market that offers local entrepreneurs affordable space and provides neighbors and visitors a wide range of retail offerings surrounded by music, art, and a range of other community-centric activities. Plans for a Boxville 2.0 will grow Boxville from a unique neighborhood initiative to a sustainable hub of community revitalization.

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Special Recognition: Chicago Fashion Lyceum

Chicago Fashion Lyceum (CFL) is a community of sharing and learning whose goal is to enable and develop broad, inclusive, enriching, and inspiring discussions around fashion, communication, and identity. The Chicago Fashion Lyceum believes that fashion is an essential component of the human condition. As such, CFL believes it demands purposeful interrogation and innovative examination. The first major project from CFL is Fashion at the Periphery, an international conference October 8-11, 2020 convened and hosted by fashion faculty from the School of the Art Institute, Columbia College, and Dominican University, and supported by an advisory committee of fashion related people from a wide variety of Chicago institutions and communities.

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Special Recognition: Urbs in Horto

This prospective project is a collaboration between Earnest Earth, an urban farm in Chicago’s Garfield Park neighborhood, and MackOjrzanowski, an independent architecture outfit . Earnest Earth currently operates a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) subscription service that provides boxes of assorted vegetables from May - October. The design and construction of capital improvements on the farm, including facilities like a greenhouse and the development of hardscape and plumbing would increase productivity and speed up the completion of CSA boxes.

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Special Recognition: Toolkit

Over the past 18 years since John Edel founded Bubbly Dynamics to support the redevelopment of a derelict industrial building on a forgotten block in Chicago’s Central Manufacturing District, he has been implementing efficient and elegant design solutions at all scales that are truly environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable. Edel's approach explores how good design can help combat climate change and benefit the community at large, necessitating out of practicality that the solutions are cost-effective and easy to replicate. His overarching goal for Toolkit is to collect, synthesize, and share the findings of his team’s research in a practical, instructive format. Toolkit is intended to be a resource for small businesses of all kinds and mission-aligned organizations seeking sustainable solutions.

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Special Recognition: The Mercadito

The Mercadito is a design project from Latent Design, a progressive architecture firm and strategic urban design consultant, and the Little Village Chamber of Commerce, a membership organization promoting and supporting the growth and success of businesses in the Little Village neighborhood of Chicago. Highlighting the community's unique Mexican cultural heritage, the Mercadito would provide a space for craftspeople to converge on a weekly basis while enhancing the neighborhood's Perez Plaza site with additional activity. The goal of the Mercadito would be a seasonal market made from semi-permanent structures that reflect the cultural vibrancy of the various regions of Mexico.

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Special Recognition: Quinceañera Nook in Jardin Esperanza

NeighborSpace (NBSP), in collaboration with visual artist Edra Soto and her woodworking husband Dan Sullivan, and community members, propose creating a Quinceañera Nook in Chicago's Little Village neighborhood's recently transformed public space Jardin Esperanza. A decorative trellis-like screen surrounding the nook would be designed and constructed to provide a space reflecting the culture and aspirations of community residents and an ideal location where families can take Quinceañera and other life event photos. The Quinceañera Nook would further enhance the beauty and culturally appropriate functionality of Jardin Esperanza as an inter-generational community resource and asset.

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Special Recognition: Annual Design Pop-up at Silver Room Block Party

This proposed annual design pop-up would take place at Eric Williams's Silver Room Block Party. With the theme of the Block Party "Love to the World," local designers of color would be commissioned to design a piece of architecture for the south and west sides that answers the question: What does love look like? Block party attendees will learn about the design process, history, concept of the project and the journey of the architect who designed the structure. The purpose of the design pop-up is to unearth our agency as designers to envision and engage with the use of a built environment as a teaching aid that harnesses attention to career pathways and inspires black and brown creative agency.

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