Polis Station

Polis Station Youth Workshop, Designed by Studio Gang

Chicago; national framework model

Completed 2015



Polis Station is a self-initiated research project that seeks to illustrate the role of design in transforming police stations into spaces for public safety and community benefit. The project and resulting proposal offers ideas that can help transform urban police stations into neighborhood investments that strengthen their communities in return.

Polis Station proposes reframing police stations as sites of social connection and services that together offer a holistic, community-centered approach to public safety. It lays out a series of physical and programmatic steps that can be taken to adapt the existing infrastructure of police station buildings to become civic assets that support new, community-based models for public safety. It also 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.

Video by Spirit of Space

Illustrating how the spaces of the station building can be reconfigured to accommodate new programming, Polis Station explores how stations can become full-service community centers that improve public safety, enhance social cohesion, and strengthen the economy of the surrounding neighborhood.

At “Community Café” workshops, we led conversations with residents of Chicago’s 10th District to learn how their station could offer more activities and amenities. We also led workshops with local teens, including a “Round Table” event where, through talking and sketching with students from the Al Raby Public High School, we learned about the spaces and programs they want to see in their neighborhood.

In order to understand what a community-oriented station can do and be in Chicago, Studio Gang undertook a significant engagement process, beginning with one-on-one conversations with community leaders and public officials with strong ties to their neighborhoods. These leaders and the issues they raised led to connections with community members, activists, and youth, each with a unique perspective on the spaces of public safety. In addition to individual interviews, the Studio also organized gatherings that brought together neighbors, youth, local police officers, and designers to initiate dialogue and ideas.

As the project progressed it became clear that realizing a physical intervention was key to establishing proof of concept. After analyzing five potential sites, the 10th District police station in North Lawndale was chosen. Here, a strong desire for more safe spaces to play—basketball, especially—emerged from conversations with community members and officers. Seizing this aspiration, Studio Gang worked closely with community leaders, police, and local alderman to develop and build a half-court on a little-used portion of the station’s parking lot.

By providing safe, shared outdoor recreational space on police property, this simple intervention has also built productive relationships between residents, officers, local officials, and donors that are leading to future investments in the neighborhood.

Polis Station Community Leadership Perspective Diagram

While Polis Station was developed for a specific community in Chicago, the proposal’s ideas and principles are intended to help communities everywhere rethink their police stations as beneficial neighborhood assets.

The Polis Station Proposal

Polis Station District Axon Diagram


Finalist, Spaces, Places and Cities category, Fast Company Innovation by Design Awards, 2018