When talking about the value of design, I’ll often highlight my belief that buildings and places should directly enrich the lives of the people who engage them regularly. I feel that’s a critical perspective to bring to our work across the world and I always strive to focus our Chicago team’s efforts around this notion.
Given the chance to host a Metropolis Think Tank discussion in our office last week, our team seized the opportunity to focus the conversation on Designing for People, Place and Socioeconomic Progress Across Chicago. With Metropolis’ partnership, we were able to secure remarkably insightful panelists (listed below) who each brought their own dynamic perspective to this narrative. As we noted in the description for the event, we sought to highlight how “recent urban development projects reveal how socially-minded designers can address inequality, create jobs, develop neighborhoods, and forge connections among a diverse citizenry.” We also wanted to focus on the new ideas and opportunities the city can seize to create a stronger, more equitable Chicago.
Thanks to the help of many, the event proved an inspiring success. Attendees from numerous Chicago organizations like the Chicago Architecture Foundation, BuiltWorlds and local universities attended to listen to the discussion and share their own ideas. We also broadcast the Metropolis event out to all of our other offices. The event provided an opportunity to have the kind of discussion we should host in cities across our firm.
Truly, the event shined because the panelists made it happen. I’m very grateful to have had the chance to take part in the discussion with leaders in our Chicago community, led by moderator Susan Szenasy:
- Susan S. Szenasy, Publisher/Editor in Chief of Metropolis, who helped frame, moderate and drive our discussion. Her passion for leveraging design to promote equity, great sense of humor and grasp of urbanism was evident throughout.
- Alden Loury, Director of Research and Evaluation for the Metropolitan Planning Council, brought critical insight into how policy needs to be evolved to make a more equitable Chicago a reality. Alden highlighted how our underserved Chicago communities are equipped with numerous strengths and resources that can bridge gaps, forge connections and better unite Chicago.
- Paula Worthington, Ph.D., a senior lecturer at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy, who kept us thinking about the policy and economic ramifications of solving the challenges ahead. We joked she handled the “tougher questions,” and she did so with great insight.
- Mimi LeClair, President and CEO of Boys & Girls Club of Chicago, who offered direct insight into how our decision-making impacts our youth today and into the future. She shared looks into how she’s reframing Boys & Girls Club programs to help our youth be safe, educated and ready to lead our communities, organizations and businesses of tomorrow.
- Edward Uhlir, FAIA, Uhlir Consulting, LLC and past leader of the Millennium Park Foundation, shared stories of how Millennium Park and other distinct Chicago architecture came to be. He told those stories in a way that highlighted the strategies, realities and best practices we need to keep at the forefront of future efforts to expand Chicago’s prosperity.
No doubt, our 90-minute discussion covered many topics and corners of Chicago. And, while so much of the conversation is still resonating in my head days after the event, I’m proudest of the optimism on display during our Metropolis Think Tank panel.
As Susan Szesany introduced the panel, she shared her opinion that Chicago is a wonderful American city. Yes, it faces challenges and needs to do more to promote equity. However, Chicago’s current situation makes it ripe for design intervention and change. Our panel agreed that by combining our talents and voices, we can leverage design to create a Chicago that enriches the lives of all who call it home.