Architecture of Community:
Reflecting on Lessons from Doshi
In conjunction with Balkrishna Doshi: Architecture for the People, Alphawood Exhibitions and Wrightwood 659 partnered with Monica Chadha of Civic Projects Architecture, and Spirit of Space, to re-imagine key principles of Doshi’s work in the contemporary context of Chicago neighborhoods. Monica joins three Chicago natives, activist Asiaha Butler, artist Edra Soto, and journalist and author Natalie Moore as they reflect on their engagements with Doshi’s approach to low cost housing, urban planning, and vernacular architecture.
Rather than a traditional tour, the series Architecture of Community illustrates the duality of exhibition viewing, extending principles from the gallery to the places we inhabit. How do our own memories and cultural associations shape the reading of an exhibition? In turn, how are we shaped by that encounter?
Asiaha Butler is the co-founder and president of the Resident Association of Greater Englewood (R.A.G.E), which helps mobilize people and resources to create change in the areas of education, youth, economic development, civic empowerment. In addition to R.A.G.E. serving as the lead organization for the Englewood Public Safety Task Force, Butler is currently the chair of the Englewood Quality of Life Housing and Public Spaces Task Force and has previously served as the chair of the Education Taskforce of Teamwork Englewood, a community rep on the LSC for Robeson High School, a member of the Englewood Community Cultural Planning Council, and the co-chair of the Englewood Community Action Council. A longtime resident of Greater Englewood who’s determined to uplift, inspire, and change the perception of her neighborhood, Butler recently founded her own housing development company to ensure that housing in Englewood happens from the bottom up to avoid gentrification or displacement. As a key community strategist and through her use of social media, blogging, and other communication mediums, Butler has become one of the most recognized and powerful voices from the Englewood community.
Born in Puerto Rico, Edra Soto is an interdisciplinary artist, and co-director of the outdoor project space THE FRANKLIN. THE FRANKLIN Collection includes over 200 artworks by local, national and international artists is also at the Garfield Park location. Most recently, she was the award winner of the inaugural Foundwork Artist Prize. Soto’s work has been included in three exhibitions supported by the MacArthur Foundation’s International Connections Fund: A Chicago / Puerto Rico exhibition at Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico; Smart Museum (Illinois) and a Chicago / Brazil exchange to take place in Salvador, Brazil in 2020.
A Chicago native, Natalie Y. Moore is WBEZ’s South Side reporter and the author of The South Side: A Portrait of Chicago and American Segregation, in which she explores contemporary segregation on the South Side of Chicago through reported essays. She’s also the co-author of Deconstructing Tyrone: A New Look at Black Masculinity in the Hip-Hop Generation and The Almighty Black P Stone Nation: The Rise, Fall, and Resurgence of an American Gang.
Monica Chadha, AIA, LEED AP, is founder and principal of Civic Projects Architecture, a Chicago-based practice with a social impact focus. Prior to starting her firm, she served as founding director of Impact Detroit and led project teams at Studio Gang and Ross Barney Architects, where she was integral to the design of award-winning, civic scale buildings. Her approach to design is highly participatory, going beyond architecture to engage in strategic planning, development, and revitalization. Civic Projects is engaged in a wide variety of work: including their collaboration with Ralph Appelbaum Associates on the Obama Presidential Center Museum and planning and design for GCE, a private nonprofit high school’s downtown campus. In 1996 she worked at the Vastu-Shilpa Foundation for Research & Studies in Environmental Design as a Research Associate in the Office of Balkrishna Doshi, on the development of housing prototypes for low-income communities.
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