CDF 2011 proposal

Landscape Intervention. Image Andrew Moddrell. © MAS Studio.


Architects Sharon Haar and Iker Gil propose the first Chicago Design Festival


Besides its rich history in design, Chicago is the base for some of the most forward-thinking design studios in the world, from architects to graphic and media designers, from fashion and industrial designers to filmmakers and musicians. We have the talent, but what is missing? We are lacking the venues to share and discuss, to innovate and challenge one another, to involve not only the design community, but engage all communities. In other American cities and abroad, there are a variety of venues and events that, far from competing, actually complement each other and offer a vibrant design scene. The time to address this is now. Sharon Haar and Iker Gil think that there is a need for more visibility and more infused, collaborative design events to promote design discussion in Chicago. This is their proposal for the first Chicago Design Festival. They are up for the challenge, are you?


The Chicago Design Festival is a proposal to create a biennial design festival that showcases the work of local, national and international designers utilizing the buildings, streets and open spaces of the city of Chicago. This cultural event engages both Chicagoans and visitors, providing a platform from which ideas and solutions can be shared and discussed. The Chicago Design Festival is initially planned to happen in summer 2011 for a month.


1. Goal

The Chicago Design Festival starts with five goals:

– Promote design ideas and solutions in Chicago.
– Provide a platform for designers to share their work.
– Create a collaborative network that relates design disciplines.
– Establish new events and places for working and discussing design.
– Showcase and rethink buildings, streets and spaces in Chicago.


2. Location

The events are located along designated clusters and corridors in Chicago, reaching as many areas of the city as possible. The idea is to use cross-cutting systems, such as main diagonal streets and the Boulevard system, that connect different neighborhoods. Some of the initially identified diagonals are Milwaukee Avenue, Ogden Avenue, Archer Avenue, Elston Avenue, Clyborn Avenue, and South Chicago Avenue. Other streets include Midway Plaisance, Garfield Boulevard, Western Boulevard, Douglas Boulevard, Independence Boulevard, Franklin Boulevard, Humboldt Boulevard, Kedzie Boulevard, Logan Boulevard and Diversey Parkway among others.


3. Sites
Within the designated city areas, the Chicago Design Festival uses existing buildings (vacant or in use), streets, and open spaces. The intention is to engage the public with the street and intensify the use of the open space. Utilizing different types of spaces allows the festival to propose activities of different scale and characteristics.


4. Activities

The Chicago Design Festival will be structured around four main types of events:


– Installations and exhibitions
Creation of temporal installations for specific sites around the city as well as exhibitions.

– Talks and debates
Establishment of lecture and debate series with local, national and international designers covering topics such as planning, urban design, architecture, graphic design, industrial design, fashion design, etc.

– Screenings
Presentation of films related to all of the design disciplines.

– Tours
Implementation of tours around the different venues and events, whether they are walking, cycling, kayak, by boat, segway…


The combination of these events allows for various proposals of different characteristics and for the festival to reach a broader audience.

Some of these events will be created specifically for the Chicago Design Festival but the festival will also build on other initiatives and neighborhood festivals that are currently happening in the city. In that sense, it not only coordinates but also intensifies existing activities.


Screening. Image Andrew Moddrell. © MAS Studio.


Architecture exhibition at vacant space along Milwaukee Avenue. Image Andrew Moddrell. © MAS Studio.


DJ concert and temporary music store. Currently vacant, this location was portrayed as a record store in High Fidelity (2000) starring Chicago-born actor John Cusack. Image Andrew Moddrell. © MAS Studio.


Outdoor exhibition. Image Andrew Moddrell. © MAS Studio.


Street fair. Image Andrew Moddrell. © MAS Studio.


Exhibition. Image Andrew Moddrell. © MAS Studio.


Photography installation. Image Andrew Moddrell. © MAS Studio.


Interactive light and sound installation. Image Andrew Moddrell. © MAS Studio.


Street art competition. Image Andrew Moddrell. © MAS Studio.


Exhibition in storefront. Image Andrew Moddrell. © MAS Studio.


Art installation in underpass. Image Andrew Moddrell. © MAS Studio.


5. Impact and Legacy

One of the goals of the Chicago Design Festival is to provide a structure that can help establish other design events and venues. It wants to create an attitude towards public discussion, generation of open competitions, and creation of a permanent design network that pushes the design community in Chicago. As part of the festival, and to showcase the work produced beyond its timeframe, a website will be available and a publication will be produced.


6. Organization

A team of designers, working closely with an advisory committee, will lead the event. This structure will incorporate people from the public and private sectors to ensure that the best minds and resources are put in place for the event. In addition, the Chicago Design Festival will work with city organizations, universities, private sponsors, and media partners to make the event have the biggest impact and outreach possible. This committee will also be in charge of coordinating the designers that will participate in the festival. The participation of the designers in the Chicago Design Festival will be decided either by a direct commission or by an open competition. The latter is crucial to ensuring sure that designers are selected solely by the quality of their work.


Sharon Haar is an architect and Associate Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) where she teaches housing design and urban design and theory. She has published several books, most recently a book titled City As Campus: Sites of Urban Education.

Iker Gil is an architect, urban designer, and director of MAS Studio. In addition, he is an Adjunct Assistant Professor at the School of Architecture at UIC. He is the recipient of the 2010 Emerging Visions Award from the Chicago Architectural Club.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *