Project: Chicago Teens Weave Landscape Prosthetics To Help Re-Imagine A Schoolyard.

Posted on July 22nd, 2010 at 7:07 pm by in Our Work

Project: Chicago Teens Weave Landscape Prosthetics To Help Re-Imagine A Schoolyard.

Project: Landscape Prosthetics
Location: Chicago
Project Director: Alex Gilliam
Year: Summer 2010

Honestly, this super short project (one afternoon) was simply intended to be a device for quickly engaging my brand new crop of teen apprentices, forcing them to collaborate, bond and quickly feel empowered to change the world around them. Given that I have been doing this exercise for awhile now, it wasn’t surprising that it worked. What was incredibly pleasing though was that it totally and visibly defied the expectations of the school (where we are in guests-residence this summer) staff. After building our landscape-improving prosthetics in the under-loved space behind the school, the public school’s staff was quite convinced that the creations wouldn’t survive the night- that the school’s students and the neighborhood would destroy them. They shook their heads in decisive dismay at our apparent waste of time.

Well they were wrong.

Not only did they survive the night but they lasted a week before the 4th of July came to pass- relatively fragile, delicate wooden structures mind you. The staff was pleasantly dumbfounded by these events. This continues to raise the questions that I ask everyday but are worth repeating again and again:

Why do we expect so little from our young adults?

Why don’t we give them control over the world around them, especially the physical condition of their often decrepit school campuses?

Can seemingly delicate, beautiful things defy expectations as well as disarm and change attitudes in places where everything else is designed to be defensive?

If four hours worth of work could have this simple but powerful impact on the school, my apprentices (and the neighborhood?), what would eight hours or a year do?

Better yet, I was really pleased to see this new batch of apprentices innovate and be the first one’s I have ever worked with to pull off the rolling landscape version that you see here. Believe it or not, this can comfortably support a gaggle of people and is quite pleasing to sit on.

Imagine what they could do if I gave them triple the materials, triple the time and they were working in optimally sized groups!

(These groups were a bit on the big size given constraints of time and materials)

-Alex Gilliam


Below you will find a few more images from their four hours worth of work.

If you would like to see some images of similar work we’ve done, click on the following: here and here