Newcity gets to know the 2021 Chicago Architecture Biennial contributors. This segment highlights Ania Jaworska, a Chicago-based architect, designer and educator whose practice explores the connection between art and architecture through bold simple forms, humor and commentary that references conceptual, historical and cultural narratives. She discusses her work reimagining the historic MLK District Garden in the North Lawndale community of Chicago, and the importance of addressing vacant lots and engaging with the communities at-large.
In what ways has your background prepared you and how will it inform your role at the upcoming Chicago Architecture Biennial?
I’ve been working with David Brown and MLK District Garden patrons Annamaria Leon and Dr. Israel prior to the pandemic, already involved in a series of workshops, community conversations and developing a proposal for the garden. The garden is part of a larger network of community spaces in the Lawndale area and it is an important part of the urban and cultural structure of the neighborhood. The garden brings in neighbors, volunteers and community to engage with each other, grow a variety of crops as well as engage in activities around growing and connecting as a community for self-organized events such as cook-outs, pickling sessions or bonfires.
The MLK District Garden on West 16th Street is based on a permaculture approach to encourage a natural ecosystem that is sustainable and regenerative. Based on several meetings we came to the conclusion that because of the natural and wild nature of the garden—the lot tends to look perhaps a bit too wild and perhaps misunderstood and unrecognized from the street level. While inside of the garden, a person is fully emerged within nature where a variety of flowers, trees, fruits, and vegetables are grown. It is truly a peaceful and charming experience. The project will focus on “framing” the garden with benches and gateways that will be positioned on the edge of the lot, and function as a demarcation of the space but also attract activities.
The sidewalk is often used by school children and neighbors commuting on foot to nearby schools, MLK Center or shopping at the corner pharmacy Del-Kar Drugs (probably the oldest pharmacy in Chicago, which also plays amazing jazz music and functions as a community meeting spot). The lot is right in between, therefore the placement of sitting and gathering spaces will be crucial not only to the garden but also to the neighborhood, allowing for a public space for the community to meet and activate the streetscape.
Can you talk about the importance of a festival like CAB amid a pandemic and a time of social and political unrest?
I am very happy and proud that this edition of CAB, The Available City will focus on areas of Chicago that are oftentimes overlooked and perhaps completely unknown to the larger public.
What are you hoping the viewers will take away from this exhibition?
I am still gathering information about the event and can’t speak fully to the impact it may have, but I am really looking forward to a larger international public to learn more about parts of Chicago that are not represented on the postcard.
What are you most excited about moving forward?
I am looking forward to programming and seeing installations popping up around the city and addressing vacant lots and engaging with the communities.
Greek-born Vasia Rigou is a Chicago-based art critic and pop culture journalist, largely on the subjects of contemporary art, design, and fashion. She moved to Chicago in 2013 to study Arts Journalism at the School of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC,) where she was awarded the New Artist Society Merit Scholarship. She grew up to appreciate art after years of carefully planned, culture-filled travel itineraries and museum-hopping around Europe with her family. During this time, she received a bachelor’s in English Literature, in her native Athens; a master’s in Media, in Nottingham, UK; and studied foreign languages—English, German, and Spanish at the University of Salamanca, Spain. Her writing—reviewing museum exhibitions, gallery shows, art fairs, fashion shows, and music festivals among others—has been published nationally and internationally both in print and online. In 2017, she founded and now serves as editor-in-chief of Rainbowed.—an independently published website focused on the visual and performing arts, digital media, and popular culture. When she’s not writing about art or looking at art—wine in hand, she keeps up with Chicago’s creative entrepreneurial and startup community, makes lists for pretty much everything, drinks immense amounts of coffee and takes cross-country road trips every chance she gets.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.rigouvasia.com