Public Program

  • The Urban Hack
    Walter Hood
    Open Architecture Chicago & The Trust for Public Land

Collaboration at the inaugural Urban Hack, 2020. Photo: Jose Montanez

The Urban Hack, an initiative of the Under the Grid Collaborative, challenges the boundaries of urban design through a day-long program to rapidly prototype an arts and culture corridor under the Chicago Transit Authority Pink Line as it runs west from the Kedzie stop to Kildare. The Urban Hack convenes North Lawndale residents and architects, civic stewards, and designers from across Chicago to reimagine these under-utilized 15 city blocks and codesign public space and infrastructure that provides a locus of activity and creativity to connect numerous large and small open spaces. Through this collective program, the production of an urban design in one day is made possible through the multiplicity of ideas synthesized by the interaction between residents and designers; a feat that could not be completed by one designer or design team alone.

The inaugural Urban Hack program on February 22, 2020, hosted by Under the Grid in collaboration with Freedom House, Open Architecture Chicago, the School of Architecture at the University of Illinois at Chicago, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and The Trust for Public Land featured presentations and discussions by a panel of local social impact designers and a keynote by Walter Hood, professor and former Chair of Landscape Architecture at the University of California, Berkeley.

Artist, designer, and educator Walter Hood founded Hood Design Studio in Oakland, California in 1992. He is a 2019 McArthur Foundation Fellow. Believing that everyone needs beauty in their lives, Hood makes use of everyday objects for landscape design and public sculpture that generate new apertures through which to see the emergent beauty, strangeness, and idiosyncrasies of urban space. His firm’s nationally recognized projects include the de Young Museum gardens in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park; the Broad Museum Plaza, Los Angeles; and the Arthur Ross Terrace and Garden at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, New York. The studio has received numerous honors, including the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Award for Collaborative Achievement and the Cooper Hewitt National Design Award in Landscape Design. In addition to serving as creative director of his eponymous firm, Hood is professor of landscape architecture, environmental planning, and urban design at the University of California, Berkeley.

Under the Grid (UTG) builds civic engagement through creative placemaking and the activation of public space by uplifting voices through art, design, activism, and involving community residents in the design process of the built environment. Community voice and decision-making with residents in the North Lawndale neighborhood of Chicago is foundational to all of UTG’s work.

Open Architecture Chicago works with communities to create sustainable, innovative, and socially responsive design. They mobilize architects, designers, civic stewards, and community leaders to use design to expand opportunities and develop solutions to transform our city. Open Architecture Chicago is part of The Open Architecture Collaborative (formerly Architecture for Humanity) is a US-based nonprofit supported by a global chapter network. Open Architecture Chicago develops educational programming or designers and architects to grow as leaders and changemakers while simultaneously producing placemaking programs with community developers and associations to inspire ownership and civic engagement in traditionally marginalized communities. To this date, the Open Architecture Chicago has completed 50+ pro-bono projects for the Chicagoland area and beyond.

The Trust for Public Land was founded in 1972 by a diverse coalition that believed all people need and deserve access to nature and the outdoors, close to home, in the cities and communities where they live, as a matter of health, equity, and justice. While many conservation organizations set aside wildlands for biodiversity or habitat restoration, The Trust for Public Land founders sought to bring the benefits of parks and nature to the places, people, and communities that needed them most.

Freedom House is founded on the core conviction that freedom flourishes in democratic nations where governments are accountable to their people; the rule of law prevails; and freedoms of expression, association, and belief, as well as respect for the rights of women, minorities and historically marginalized groups, are guaranteed.