‘Good follows good.’
–Bernard, owner of Bernard’s Wear and Stepper Store www.bernardswear.com
Project: We Live Here
Location: Chicago, IL
Project Director: Alex Gilliam with Brenda Gamboa for Landon Bone Baker Architects
Some of the most striking things about Landon Bone Baker Architects (here) are their confident but humble approach to their work and the deep connections, and community trust that they have cultivated through twenty five years of working with a host of community-based partners to create affordable housing for the people of Chicago. Few realize that much of this work originates not just through creating very good, functional architecture on time and on budget but also because the firm is constantly involved in a wide variety of community activities in the places they work. Whether it’s through teaching, going to community meetings, working to build community coalitions, sitting on non-profit boards or doing hands-on community building projects, their commitment is notable but also makes great business sense. However, it was immediately apparent to me that they don’t do a very good job of telling this story.
Why in the world is this a problem?
A few of the reasons that Landon Bone Baker hired Public Workshop are:
1. To help set up a program to grow new skilled community oriented designers.
2. Help the firm make a larger statement to the profession about the value of doing this type of work.
3. To create an atmosphere for new innovations in the firm’s work.
By simply revealing the many stories behind the people and places in which they work, it was clear to Public Workshop that the great folks at Landon Bone Baker can potentially kill many, many proverbial birds with one stone.
The challenge is that gathering these stories can be quite time consuming and hit or miss, in which the effort may unfortunately far outweigh the gain. So, Public Workshop is not only creating a clear structure and compelling branding for the project, but also tapping into local resources to create a innovative yet sustainable process for gathering, documenting, disseminating and learning from the stories. One unique aspect of this project is leveraging a tremendous local reservoir of talented youth and young designers to gather these stories, while developing an concrete infrastructure to help them grow into community-designer-leaders. It should be noted that there are many youth or community led story gathering and asset mapping programs across the country. However, in few if any cases does the information gathered actually amount to anything- We Live Here is very different. At Public Workshop we believe that youth are some of our most powerful agents for positive change. The work they do shouldn’t be academic, it can and should be meaningful and useful to society- when this happens, everyone benefits.
Although still in the prototyping phase, we are already seeing great results and excitement from the project, both within the firm, from community members and our non-profit partners. One unique aspect of the dissemination strategy that Public Workshop is creating is that these stories will end up not only helping the firm do even better work but also strengthen the visibility of our partnering organizations and raise awareness of some of the critical issues surrounding housing in Chicago.
Needless to say, we’re really excited and can’t wait to share in the coming months some of the other innovative things we’ve created with and for Landon Bone Baker.