50 Designers, 50 Ideas, 50 Wards

Chicago Architecture Foundation, Chicago, IL

On View
May 2016-December 2016


What is the role of design in solving community challenges, both locally and citywide?

50 Designers, 50 Ideas, 50 Wards featured proposals from designers throughout Chicago offering solutions to the city’s most urgent urban issues.

About the Exhibition

In celebration of its 50th anniversary, the Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF) asked 50 designers to create transformative proposals aimed at improving the quality of life for residents in each of Chicago’s 50 wards. Seeking inspiration and answers about how Chicago might grow, enhance and improve present conditions, the designers studied all elements of the city—streets, bridges, buildings, waterways, vacant lots and everything in between.

50 Designers, 50 Ideas, 50 Wards was curated for the CAF by Martin Felsen, Sarah Dunn, and Reed Kroloff.

View the online exhibition

Studio Gang’s proposal, Water as Our Past and Future, explored water’s role in defining Chicago. The city has long history of treating its fresh water resources as a dumping ground, and today’s residents have inherited decades of mistreatment. Nowhere in the city is this polluted legacy more visible than in the 11th Ward—a neighborhood long challenged by industrial use and misuse of the South Branch of the Chicago River. In addition to visible pollutants on the surface of Chicago’s waterways, invisible contaminants in both the water and below ground will have lasting impacts on the health of various aquifers, rivers, and lakes.

No single ward or neighborhood can tackle this problem alone. Through a cooperative effort between government, universities, technology leaders, designers, and residents, the city could repair past abuses and transform its waterways into healthy, green, efficient, closed-loop systems. By harnessing nature and new water technologies, Chicago could conserve limited resources, create jobs, connect to thriving native ecologies, and become a global leader in the next generation of water infrastructure.