Transforming an empty lot into a bright and welcoming public open space in the Austin neighborhood.
ARC, a Chicago Architectural Biennial initiative, is a network of local designers, city planners, and community organizers committed to making Chicago safe, healthy, and economically resilient for all. ARC formed in the summer of 2020, during the height of the pandemic, and after the civil unrest, with the goal of helping communities on the city’s south and west sides re-open during challenging times. In a matter of weeks, ARC deployed an outdoor dining solution in Chatham, The 75th Avenue Boardwalk (75th St. – Indiana to Calumet), with the help of community leaders, volunteers, and local artists. In 2021, our work carries on. By the end of the year, (5) five ARC initiatives will be complete, all focused on an equitable re-opening of Chicago.
POPCourts!, ARC’s second project, was developed in concert with Mayor Lightfoot’s INVEST South/West initiative. The goal in Austin was to create a sense of place and identity for a community that has limited access to public open space. The team transformed a vacant lot at the corner of W. Chicago and N. Lockwood Avenues into a place for activity, gathering, and commerce.
The project includes three zones, “Courts,” each serving various community functions, with the programming meant to be flexible, allowing activities to “Pop” up and transform over time.
Artwork brings the project together, figuratively and literally. Local artists painted murals on the adjacent building walls depicting Malcolm X, Harriet Tubman, and Mahalia Jackson. The site itself, spilling out onto the sidewalk and into the street, will be painted with a Pop Art theme. Volunteers will work with the artists during a Community Paint Day to complete this effort.
The groundbreaking for POPCourts! took place in October 2020, generating excitement and anticipation for the opening. The site has already sparked conversation and investigation by local groups of students interested in urban design, public art, and community planning. This response is precisely the intent – to provide a safe space for gathering and public discourse and a place of identity along Chicago Avenue that can be programmed by residents and evolve.