Studio Gang Projects Honored by Fast Company’s 2018 Innovation by Design Awards

September 10, 2018

Speaking to trends of empowerment and inclusivity seen across the projects honored by its 2018 Innovation by Design Awards, Fast Company notes that “the design of empowerment has made its way into architecture and urbanism, too. ... Studio Gang has reimagined the local police station as a locus for neighborhood life. The point here isn’t that design swoops in and saves the day. It merely ushers people toward better outcomes. ‘If design can help people start to connect and build relationships to each other,’ says Studio Gang’s founder Jeanne Gang, ‘it will create more resiliency within that community.’”

A finalist in the Innovation Awards’ Spaces, Places, and Cities category, this proposal, titled Polis Station, was developed for the inaugural Chicago Architecture Biennial in 2015 and has continued to resonate ever since. It explores how design can help people imagine changes in police-community relations by taking a close look at the police station—the architectural space of policing—and offering ideas that can help transform urban police stations into neighborhood investments that strengthen their communities in return. The proposal lays out a series of physical and programmatic steps that can be taken to activate police stations as civic assets and illustrates how these opportunities can expand throughout a neighborhood to form a network of recreational, educational, entrepreneurial, and green spaces that support a healthier and safer community. As a proof of concept, the Studio worked with officers at the 10th District police station in Chicago’s North Lawndale neighborhood and the surrounding community to identify opportunities for them, especially youth, to interact in non-enforcement situations. Here, a strong desire for more safe spaces to play—basketball, especially—emerged from a significant engagement process initiated by one-on-one conversations with community members. Seizing this aspiration, the Studio worked closely with police, community leaders, and local alderman to develop and build a half-court on a little-used portion of the station’s parking lot, which has become a popular destination for local youth and a safe space supporting new, everyday overlap between the worlds of police officers and neighbors.

Local youth play basketball at the 10th District police station in North Lawndale, Chicago, during the inauguration of the court.

Empowerment and inclusivity are themes that also run through the Studio’s Memphis Riverfront Concept, which was recognized with an honorable mention in the Spaces, Places, and Cities category. Completed in 2017, the Concept spans six miles of the city’s Mississippi riverfront, imagining a network of spaces and opportunities that are tied into the city and its assets and that benefits the entire community, lifting Memphis as a whole. It shows how five zones along the riverfront—the Fourth Bluff, Mud Island, Tom Lee Park, MLK Park, and Greenbelt Park—can leverage their particular strengths to become distinctive places offering activities and experiences that appeal to people of all generations, incomes, races, and backgrounds. Developed through an integrated process of research, community engagement, and analysis, the Concept works from the sites’ specific opportunities and challenges, laying a framework for future projects that empowers Memphians to achieve their aspirations for their riverfront. With a signature project currently underway, the Concept has proved to be not only inclusive and inspiring but actionable and realistic as well.

View the 2018 Innovation by Design Awards winners and honorees

At Memphis’s Tom Lee Park, a variety of new amenities from an adventure playground to an elegant pavilion will provide park users with accessible, intergenerational spaces where they can participate in activities that build relationships with each other and the Mississippi River.

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Fast Company — “How Studio Gang is Reimagining the Community Police Station”

A finalist in Fast Company’s 2018 Innovation By Design Awards, the Studio’s Polis Station project is spotlighted.