DAF Open Call Winner Announced

John Hill
23. February 2021
Visualization: Eibhlín Ní Chathasaigh, James Albert Martin, Maria Bruun, Anne Dorthe Vester

The Chicago Architecture Biennial and the Danish Arts Foundation (DAF) have announced the winning team for DAF Open Call, a commission for Chicago's North Lawndale neighborhood that is part of the fourth Biennial opening in September.

The winning project, titled Soil Lab, "will include workshops and built elements grounded in bricks," per an announcement, "a material with significance to both the Chicago and the Danish architectural vernacular." One half of the project will actually involve making bricks. As described by the winning team — Anne Dorthe Vester and Maria Bruun from Copenhagen, and Eibhlín Ní Chathasaigh and James Albert Martin from Dublin — "Soil Lab revolves around a workshop in North Lawndale where the community can come together to build from readily available materials: creating fired bricks and unfired rammed earth components through interaction and play." 

The other half of the project, therefore, will be the construction of spaces for communal gathering, spaces that will be shaped by interactions — virtual, due to the pandemic — between the design team and community groups in Lawndale, including CCA Academy and Young Men's Employment Network (YMEN). The site for the project, near the intersection of West 13th Street and Pulaski Road, is close to a CCA facility. It is also about one mile west of Douglas Park, which is part of a park system laid out on Chicago's west side in the mid-1800s but features elements redesigned by landscape architect Jens Jensen early last century. The Soil Lab team notes Jensen, who was born in Denmark, as an inspiration, specifically his belief "in the importance of reconnecting with oneself and one’s community through nature and natural materials."

L-R: Anne Dorthe Vester and Maria Bruun (Photos: Benita Marcussen), James Albert Martin and Eibhlín Ni Chathasaigh (Photo: Rob de Boer)

Both the DAF Open Call and the winning Soil Lab project respond to The Available City, the theme for this year's Biennial, as developed by Biennial curator David Brown and announced last fall. The Available City is "a global urban design approach rooted in community engagement that brings together local and international design thinkers with Chicago community stakeholders, residents, and students." Brown's projects of the same name, exhibited at both the Chicago Architecture Biennial as well as the Venice Architecture Biennale, have focused on uses for some of Chicago's many vacant lots. Soil Lab will see one of those lots activated through workshops and community spaces grounded in bricks.

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