Awards for Chinatown

Evidently, I’m not the only one who thinks that recent developments in Chinatown are well worth noting. The neighborhood has racked up five of the 24 Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Architectural Excellence in Community Design awards (given in conjunction with LISC’s Chicago Neighborhood Development Awards) given since 1998. Even more surprisingly, all five are within two blocks of one another.

A list of the awards given, by neighborhood:
Beverly: Beverly Arts Center
Bronzeville: Komed Holman Health Center
Chinatown: Archer Courts Townhouses, CASL Kam Liu Building, Archer Courts Rehabilitation, Ping Tom Memorial Park, CASL Senior Housing
Englewood: Southwest Women Working Together
Galewood Park & Norwood Park: Mather Caf�
Garfield Park: Garfield Market, Rebecca Johnson Apts/Deborah’s Place
Goose Island: Republic Windows & Doors
Humboldt Park: Humboldt Ridge Apartments
Hyde Park: Willard Square Apartments
Lakeview: The Belray Apartments
Lawndale: Homan Square Community Center, Jubilee (Carole Robertson) Family Resource Center
Little Village: Little Village Family Resource Center, Little Village Academy
Midway: Midway Head Start Center
Roseland: Roseland Ridge Apartments
South Shore: Jackson Park/63rd Street Beach Pavilion
Washington Park: Children’s Place at Vision House

For what it’s worth, this is a really cool group of buildings: of the 18 award winners that I’ve seen, most have been noteworthy buildings well deserving of a closer look even outside of the often completely unexpected context. Some of them, like 63rd Street Beach, Ping Tom Park, and Roseland Ridge, rank among the best places in the city.

This category of deserving buildings often gets left out of the usual award ceremonies, possibly because of the high entry fees associated or the onerous submission requirements — forms that architects can fill out, but that community developers are usually too busy to think much of. (I’m surprised that transportation projects seem to have been overlooked; then again, very few really groundbreaking transport facilities have been done locally outside of downtown. The Douglas rehab, maybe, but it’s somewhat programmatic.)

Incidentally, this came to mind today when I poked around the Archer Courts complex post-occupancy; I hadn’t walked around since construction was finishing up on the townhouses. Sure enough, folks were strolling around outside the high-rises and kids were talking quietly in the walkways between the townhouses, which warmly reflected the sunlight into the narrow spaces. Even on paper, it sounds cool: almost 60 dua gross, a mix from very low income to moderate-high income, about 50% Black and 50% Chinese with families and seniors, Modernist styling with prefab components, no demolition. On the ground, it actually works.

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