AIA Chicago Announces Finalist Designs for the Roberta Feldman Architecture for Social Justice Award

Aerial photo of an intersection painted with bright colors.

POPCourts! by Lamar Johnson Collaborative

(August 18, 2022) CHICAGO – AIA Chicago, the second largest chapter of the American Institute of Architects and the collective voice of 4,000 licensed architects, emerging professionals, architecture students, and allied professionals, today announced the finalists for the Roberta Feldman Architecture for Social Justice Award which is administered by the AIA Chicago Foundation. The winners, as selected by an esteemed jury of design experts, will be announced on September 12 at Pritzker Pavilion during Designight 2022, AIA Chicago’s first free and public architecture celebration.

The finalists for the Roberta Feldman Architecture for Social Justice Award, to receive either the Honor Award or a Citation of Merit Award, are:

POPCourts!, Lamar Johnson Collaborative; Westside Health Authority, Chicago, IL

POPCourts! is a 7,000 sf community plaza in the Austin Neighborhood on Chicago’s West Side. Born out of the pandemic and civil unrest, it provides a community anchor and safe space where residents can enjoy the outdoors.

POPCourts! contains three zones, “Courts,” each serving a variety of community functions. The programming is flexible, allowing activities to “Pop” up and transform over time.

The basketball court doubles as a community plaza. The gravel drive hosts food trucks and farmers markets, and the shaded lawn provides casual seating. Artwork brings the project together, figuratively and literally, with a pop-art theme

Sounding Boards Garden at Harmony, Eastlake Studio; Pastor James Brooks, Harmony Community Church, Chicago, IL

Sounding Boards, founded by members of Eastlake Studio, is a non-profit organization that amplifies the voices of progressive artists through public art. Inspired by Black Lives Matter demonstrations in the summer of 2020, Sounding Boards brought artists and business owners together to create murals on boarded-up storefronts. As the murals quickly went up around the city, they became vibrant reminders of the ongoing struggle for equality and the hope for a better future.  

In 2021, Eastlake Studio designed Sounding Boards Garden, a public park next to North Lawndale’s Harmony Community Church to house the previously commissioned murals. The semi-enclosed garden preserves the artwork, historicizing the summer of 2020 and celebrating the ongoing Black Lives Matter movement, while also providing the neighborhood with a safe space for conversations, performances, and mourning. 

The Harbour, OKW Architects; The Harbour, Illinois

The Harbour is a non-profit shelter for young women experiencing homelessness. The original structure had long suffered from deferred maintenance and dilapidation, to the point that it was becoming increasingly unsafe for the young women that lived in it.

After a successful fundraising campaign with help from Designs4Dignity, the new Harbour is a single-family home with an institutional backbone. Tucked away from the main road, the house opens to a bright, airy, and inviting common area that serves as the nexus for two wings of bedrooms and offices, with a patio and yard unfolding to the rear.

The Roberta Feldman Architecture for Social Justice Award was established in 2020 to honor excellence in single built project and single design program guided by the conviction that access to high quality architecture is not a privilege, it is a human right. Architecture for Social Justice is defined by the following objectives: first, to engage a broader cross-section of society, especially those not typically able to access architectural services and, second, to create innovative design solutions that address complex social and economic inequities that impact these communities

This yearly award celebrates the commitment of designers who work on behalf of the public good while receiving no or below market rate compensation.

A monetary award of $2,500 will be given by the AIA Chicago Foundation for built projects and/or design programs that exemplify socially just design practices and impact. Non-monetary honorable mentions may also be awarded.

Roberta Feldman, Ph.D., is Professor Emerita at the University of Illinois at Chicago, School of Architecture. As an architectural activist, researcher, and educator she is committed to democratic design. Feldman’s work is grounded in the conviction that high quality design is a meaningful and necessary component of an equitable and sustainable society. Her expertise in such work has been recognized nationally and internationally.

The restructured Design Excellence Awards, part of AIA Chicago’s signature awards program to be given at Designight 2022, recognize projects of all scales, from Architecture XS to XL, and Interior Architecture S to L. The Design Excellence Awards now include what in previous years were standalone Small Project Awards. In addition to the Design Excellence Awards, separate awards—chosen by an additional jury/committee—will be given for a new Decarbonization Award and the Lifetime Achievement Award. Finalists for the Design Excellence Awards and the Decarbonization Award were announced on August 16. The recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award, Ralph Johnson of Perkins&Will, was announced on August 10. Designight 2022 will also feature the inaugural Lerch Bates People’s Choice Awards presented in partnership with the Chicago Architecture Center. Finalists for “best of” public voting will be announced in late August along with information on how people can vote for their favorite architectural designs submitted in 2022.

Designight 2022 is a free event where everyone is welcome; all firms, clients, consultants, partners, friends, and family—and all Chicagoans with a penchant for great architectural design. Designight 2022 will be hosted by architectural enthusiast Peter Sagal, of NPR’s Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!

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