Designy Mom: New Year, New You

Architecture, Urban Design No Comments »
Students participate in the design of their community

Students participate in the design of their community

By Krisann Rehbein

In 2014, I became a writer. Having spent more than a decade as a design educator, I started writing about the intersection of design, urbanism and parenting. Before I had a child, I adventured all over the city but a baby hampered my mobility and changed my relationship to it. Feeling suddenly constrained, I thought the solutions for the modern American city were dependent on accommodating my family, and families like mine. I was wrong.

Our daughter is now three years old. She has questions and opinions about things that I can mostly explain. “Those stuck-together houses are called town homes,” I tell her. “Most people don’t paint their houses pink, but we might see one!” I want to raise her to pay attention to the city and to understand that design decisions impact nearly every aspect of our lives—that what we see is the result of intention. I want her to ask the right questions and listen to the multitude of people who offer answers.

One answer I know I can provide is that the city doesn’t work for us unless it works for everyone. Read the rest of this entry »

Chicago Looks: Hitting the Target

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IMG_7254Giovanni Mendoza was shopping with his folks.

The weather sucks and you’re shopping at Target. How on earth did you summon the energy to pick a cool outfit? Are you going somewhere else?
At least we finally got some snow! I just bought the denim jacket and coat at the thrift store a few weeks back and I was finally able to wear them out today seeing how it wasn’t as cold as it had been for the past few weeks. After Target, we are heading to the grocery store: I’m making dinner tonight.

Do you try to dress well at all times?
It’s sort of a responsibility. Even if I’m just heading to the corner store, I make sure I look put together. First impressions are very important to me, so I try to make sure I get to showcase my personality through my clothes whenever I meet someone for the first time. Read the rest of this entry »

Maker Beat: Milk and Mead

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Clothier Milk Handmade sets up shop at Block Thirty Seven

Clothier Milk Handmade sets up shop at Block Thirty Seven

By Michael Workman

Since 2012, the women’s clothier Milk Handmade has represented a curated cross-section of local designers including Squasht, Little Minnow and Muse Belts out of its permanent storefront in Andersonville. Recently, Milk experimented with a downtown retail outpost. Proprietor Hallie Borden and Milk won Block Thirty Seven’s pop-up space contest, receiving a two-month rent-free residency at Block Thirty Seven, bringing the craft movement to downtown and raising the stakes on buying local and handmade goods.

Pop-up shops are still a new way for getting local makers out in front of new audiences. Traditionally, craft fairs—and there’s a whole circuit that stretches from one coast to the other—hosted in schools, churches and field houses have provided a space for makers to connect with consumers in a low-cost environment. And the few maker movement shops that have taken a risk on retail space are rarely in a position to afford the downtown rental rates, settling instead outside of established commercial centers.

In both of these respects, Milk’s centrally-located boutique, which operated through the holiday season, was highly unusual. In a conversation with Newcity, Borden reflected on her experience at Block Thirty Seven and shared plans for the coming year.

Read the rest of this entry »

Chicago Looks: Work That Sidewalk

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IMG_6867Wardrobe stylist Daga Samuels (Instagram:@dagasaa) was running late for work but still managed to throw together a look inspired by next season Saint Laurent. He shares his best sartorial tips.

How is one expected to know how to dress oneself when there are so many other urgent and significant things, like Willow Smith’s Twitter, to think about? Allow moi to creative direct.

Layers: They can be your best friend or… your best friend. A great aspect of layering is how it can expand your wardrobe; unseasonal or uninspiring pieces can gain new life when paired with other items. Those summer dresses you have in the back of your closet? Wear one under a sweater with a blazer and watch as it transforms into your new favorite winter layer. Those peep-toe platforms you had to have but only wore once? Wear them with socks and a pair of cropped jeans. Read the rest of this entry »

Newcity’s Top 5 of Everything 2014: Design (Updated)

News Etc., Top 5 Lists No Comments »

Top 5 Fashion Trends of 2014
Normcore: Think Seinfeld, soccer moms and suburban tourists




















Sporty chic: Sneakers got out of the gym and ventured into fancier territories. Read the rest of this entry »

Chicago Looks: Daddy Day Rules

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Top 5 things to do in Chicago according to four-year-old Finn Schroeder-Lebec, who was on his way to the Logan Hardware—a vintage arcade and used record emporium—with his dad. Read the rest of this entry »

Get Fueled: Lisa Mahar, Founder of Kid O Toys

Designed Objects No Comments »
Kid O's founder is inspired by ideas from outside of her discipline

Kid O’s founder is inspired by ideas from outside of her discipline

For many of us, the holidays are about toys or parties—or both. But it can feel overwhelming to find well-made, kid-friendly gear at this time of year. So when I see products designed as thoughtfully and crafted as lovingly as Kid O’s, I feel giddy and grateful. Kid O’s founder Lisa Mahar’s philosophy of letting users’ imagination loose is clearly visible in her creative process.

What is the most creative thing you have made or are most proud of? 
That would be whatever I’m working on now. When I start a new project I do my best to address the weaknesses of the previous one, so hypothetically each new project should be better than the last one. It doesn’t always work out that way, but it’s very motivating to believe that my next project will be my best. Read the rest of this entry »

The New Park in the Park: Musings on Maggie Daley Park

Urban Design No Comments »
Renderings from the Chicago Park District's Maggie Daley Park Construction web site.

Renderings from the Chicago Park District’s Maggie Daley Park Construction web site.

By F. Philip Barash

The newly opened Maggie Daley Park is a technicolor dreamcoat of a park, with a climbing wall, all sorts of brightly painted play gear, thirty-foot light masts, a ribbon for ice skating and landscaped mounds that gently capture the faces of skaters who spill on a sharp turn. It occupies a tricky, twenty-acre parcel just east of Millennium Park, bounded by Monroe Street on the south and Randolph Street on the north. Frank Gehry’s metallic bridge connects to the site, and before the new park was installed, a journey along its serpentine path seemed like a trip from West Berlin to the East, the shimmer of capitalism giving way to cracked concrete and sickly grass.

The new park tries very hard to please, and perhaps it does. Its design, by the very good Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, is symptomatic of a larger cultural trend. Today, the public realm—and especially parks—reifies the ambitions of city boosters anxious about competing for affluent families, young talent and visitors. These new, hyper-competitive spaces that are emerging all over the world are what the “Bilbao Effect” was to a previous generation. Call it the High Linification of the public space.

But there’s a key philosophical difference between Maggie Daley Park and parks like the High Line. In Boston, simple lawn chairs and hammocks on a grassy lot signal a new destination. In San Francisco, much-lauded “parklets” turn parking spaces into sidewalk cafes and playlots. In Philadelphia, barges along the riverfront create floating gardens. Here, throughout Chicago neighborhoods, the nonprofit Architecture for Humanity has been quietly remaking vacant parcels with volunteer labor and donated materials. And over the summer, my former colleagues at the Chicago Loop Alliance hosted a series of “Activate” events that breathe life into gritty downtown alleys. The High Line is an example, albeit an extreme one, of tactical urbanism that’s happening at all scales in Chicago and elsewhere. The common thread among these isn’t about landscaping or fixtures; it’s about a group of people who transform unused spaces into useful ones. For all its chutes and ladders, Maggie Daley Park transforms a park into a park. Read the rest of this entry »

Maker Beat: Making It, Selling It, Buying It

Designed Objects, Events, Reviews No Comments »
3d printing, along with a host of analog tech, is available at the Edgewater maker space

3d printing, along with a host of analog tech, is available at the Edgewater maker space

By Michael Workman

Since Chicago is home to one of the largest craft movements in the country, it’s amazing that there’s so little reporting of it. “Maker Beat” is a response to this lack; in a series of regular columns, it’ll give voice to the masses of makers who toil among us. This week, we’ll peek into a couple of our favorite maker venues around Chicago.

In its new home at the Thorndale Red Line stop, Edgewater Workbench is one of those “why-Chicago-is-great” projects, a community resource center offering access to a variety of applied technology. Their arsenal includes a laser cutter for etching wood and glass; they also have a Form 1 and array of MakerBot 3-D printing machines among rows of woodworking benches. The MakerBots print using environmentally friendly, plant-based PLA plastic. Read the rest of this entry »

Chicago Looks: Round Is Beautiful

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Amara Ogboi (@sweetyungcoconut) was running errands.

What’s your style philosophy?
Be cute and be comfortable. I wear clothes that make me happy, like with colors, unique prints or silhouettes. Sometimes they aren’t as physically comfortable but as long as a piece makes me feel great, I’m comfortable.

Who and what inspires your outfits the most?
I draw inspiration from different places: nature, my mother, my grandmother, old R&B music videos—whatever strikes me, really. I like to tell stories with my outfits. I always have a description of what I’m wearing and what I was thinking when I put the outfit together. Like, “Who is this girl?” It’s very serious. Read the rest of this entry »