For this year’s list, we kept our overall ranking numbers but organized everything by category.
Design 50 2022: The Fifty People Who Shape Chicago (Introduction)
Design 50 2022: Interior Architecture & Design for Home
Design 50 2022: Exhibitors and Advocates
Design 50 2022: Fashion
Design 50 2022: Graphic Design and Branding
Design 50 2022: Innovation, Incubation & Acceleration
+ Designer of the Moment: Andre Brumfield of Gensler Chicago
Here are those who shape Chicago’s Architecture and Built Environment.
Adjunct Professor, Illinois Institute of Technology/Global Leader, High Performance Design Group, SOM
From master planning to architecture and interior architecture, Arathi Gowda is a global leader for the Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) High Performance Design Group. There, she oversees the firm’s sustainability practice. Committed to training the next generation of practitioners, Gowda is also an educator teaching classes on sustainable urbanism at various universities including IIT where she is an adjunct faculty member.
Author/Professor of Architectural History and Cultural Heritage in the College of Architecture of the Illinois Institute of Technology
“Hopefully, 2022 will finally bring the arts community back together live so we can initiate multidisciplinary collaborations that impact the quality of the built environment in Chicagoland,” says architect, preservationist and historian Michelangelo Sabatino, also a professor of architectural history and cultural heritage at IIT’s College of Architecture. Sabatino, alongside Susan S. Benjamin, co-authored “Modern in the Middle: Chicago Houses 1929-75,” a volume that explores the substantial yet sometimes overlooked role that Chicago and its suburbs played in the development of the modern single-family house in the twentieth century. He has a new book in the works that “will offer different perspectives on the history of the Illinois Institute of Technology’s campus, Bronzeville and Chicago,” he says, adding that the research featured will also serve as the basis of an exhibition hosted on the IIT campus.
Principal/Co-Founder, Mir Collective
Mir Collective is a woman-owned architecture studio on a mission: to create positive public impact through innovative design. Advocating for adaptive reuse, healthy spaces, and energy reduction, they undertake responsible projects. “We’ve been working for many years to develop a new Creativity Center within the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center to advance their unique and progressive role in arts and civic leadership. It’s conceptually a hybrid space between cultural institution and public space—free and welcoming to the public to connect with arts, creativity, and with each other,” says Mir principal and co-founder Kara Boyd. “We are also excited about a project in the very rural Midwest, with clients thinking very seriously about climate change adaptation. Both of these projects have central issues that we feel strongly about,” she adds. As for the future of the Chicago design landscape: “I think we’ll see more of the fruits of a lot of efforts to bring forward voices from marginalized groups and communities,” says Boyd. “I’m looking forward to seeing it take more shape, gain momentum, and change the landscape.”
Co-Chair, Open Architecture Chicago
Open Architecture Chicago, the local chapter of The Open Architecture Collaborative, is a nonprofit that aims to build community capacity and serve as an intermediary between professional practitioners and systemically marginalized communities. Their mission is to mobilize architects, designers and community leaders to use design to expand opportunities and develop solutions to transform our city. Passionate about using arts and culture, business, design and education as tools for social change, Open Architecture Chicago co-chair Craig Stevenson is committed to building thriving, sustainable communities by means of creative placemaking.
Alison Von Glinow and Lap Chi Kwong
Co-Founders, Kwong Von Glinow Design
Kwong Von Glinow was founded on the belief that architecture is meant to be enjoyed. Founded by Lap Chi Kwong and Alison Von Glinow, KVG focuses on creating innovative living environments, places for cultural engagement, urban public space and contemporary workspaces. Taking an exploratory approach, the founders describe their practice as “building the thoroughly enjoyable from the slightly familiar; translating forward-looking architectural concepts into playful designs with broad appeal.” They are very optimistic about practicing architecture in the city: “We see collaboration as a defining feature of the Chicago design landscape,” they add, whether it means working alongside Chicago artists to create site-specific installations or undertaking a big residential project. “We’re super excited to be teaching an architecture Options Studio at Princeton University School of Architecture this spring that we are calling Chicago, Chicago: Housing Future and the Chicago Three-Flat. The topic is to rethink the Chicago three-flat to accommodate more contemporary ways of living.”
Co-Founder, DAAM and Guild Row
DAAM stands for Design, Architecture, Art and Making. “Our mission is to advance creative thinking-and-doing in the built environment through a hands-on approach to building physical places and things,” says co-founder Elyse Agnello, who, together with Alex Shelly, approaches every project with a “challenge accept” mindset and genuine excitement to create a design that is transformative—one that valorizes a neighborhood, breathes new life into an abandoned structure, creates a new way of being together, or simply inspires a passerby, as they describe it. One such project is Guild Row, which Agnello also co-founded—an ultra-flexible dynamic event space perfect for gatherings of all kinds. Think artistry and craftsmanship, a strong sense of community and a palpable vibe. “Three things that are getting a good amount of my focus right now (from large to small) are: the continued development and future expansion of Guild Row, strategic planning around DAAM’s residential portfolio to assess how it best translates into opportunities for new sustainable and affordable projects, and rethinking my own workspace to better balance hybrid workflows and shifting demands on personal time and energy,” says Agnello. “Not sure if this is more forecasting or wishful thinking, but I think we’ll see human-centric design flourish in 2022—an abundance of cross-sector initiatives that tap into people’s desire to connect and engage in physical space. Visually and formally, I think we’re going to see lots of bold and experimental work as we finally transition out of a global space of pandemic-inspired fear.”
Elizabeth Blasius and Jonathan Solomon
Co-Founders, Preservation Futures
“We hope 2022 will be a year to revisit and reconsider the ways design can contribute to a just, equitable and sustainable future in Chicago. Care for our existing built environment not only helps achieve our climate and affordability goals, it supports and celebrates the history of places that inspire Chicagoans,” say Preservation Futures co-founders Elizabeth Blasius and Jonathan Solomon. “While preservation’s focus has traditionally been on architectural significance, we believe that it is a service-based practice that must primarily support the people that steward, care for, and use the buildings and places that help tell our story,” they say. “We are working on ways that the value of Chicago’s vernacular architecture can be embraced and incentivized through new tools, as traditional landmarking and survey practices are not suited to their recognition and care. Through working to list the James R. Thompson Center on the National Register of Historic Places, we are broadening the nation’s official list of historic places worthy of preservation to include buildings of the Postmodern movement, and enhancing understanding of the building’s value beyond its aesthetics: as a public asset, transit hub and place of many of Chicago’s most impactful protests and activist movements.”
Director, AIA Chicago
With more than twenty years experience under her belt nationally and internationally, Jen Masengarb spent more than three at the Danish Architecture Center in Copenhagen, prior to which she held a leadership position at the Chicago Architecture Center for eighteen, where she co-curated exhibitions, lectured, and wrote and edited publications. Now, she is leading the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Chicago, one of the largest AIA chapters, as executive director. “Over the past two years, we’ve witnessed how architecture and urban design decisions play a critical role in the health (or sickness), resiliency (or vulnerability), and growth (or inequity) of our communities,” she says. “Design is not neutral.” Despite the challenges ahead, Masengarb remains hopeful: “I am inspired both by the thoughtful design work and hard conversations on these topics emerging from this architectural community,” she says. “Architects are hard-wired as collaborators and creative problem solvers—two things vital in working toward equitable and sustainable places and spaces.”
Joseph Altshuler and Zack Morrison
Co-Directors, Could Be Architecture
Could Be Architecture designs seriously playful spaces, things and happenings. “We’re hopeful that Chicago continues to leverage the robust community of independent practitioners and small design studios that are doing the work to support our neighborhoods, cultural institutions, activists and changemakers,” say design-practice directors Joseph Altshuler and Zack Morrison, who are architectural designers, educators, curators and writers. Through their work, they aim to create architecture that tells stories, builds audiences, resonates with people’s emotions and instigates enthusiasm around the activities and imagery. Their future plans are multifaceted: “Projects on the boards include a placemaking and streetscape amplification project for Gary, Indiana; residential renovations to classic Chicago building types that address the ongoing cultural shifts of the pandemic and fundraising to launch a citywide Sukkah Design Festival in the near future,” they say. “By building constellations of solidarity among designers and community groups throughout the Chicago metropolitan area, we aim to amplify the built environment’s capacity to support joy, empathy and companionship.”
Ann Lui and Craig Reschke
Co-Founders, Future Firm
“A rising generation of designers, entrepreneurs, culture-makers, developers, and those who love vibrant cities are going to bring transformative change to Chicago—which has been dominated by the conservative status quo for too long,” say Ann Lui and Craig Reschke, co-founders of Future Firm, an architecture and design research office that spans diverse practices, from exhibition spaces to residential and commercial buildings to urban and territorial speculations. Their values include collaborating with compassion and empathy, challenging the status quo, prioritizing the unexpected, cultivating anti-racism in themselves, their practice, the discipline and the city, and building better buildings—for everyone. Continuing to design “architecture for changemakers,” Future Firm’s work includes commercial projects on the South and West Sides: Rxology, an independent community-focused pharmacy, the much-anticipated Bronzeville Winery and a mixed-use midrise development which prioritizes community and public space.
Cities & Urban Design Leader/Design Director/Principal, Gensler
Revitalizing urban environments through urban design, master planning and architecture, for Andre Brumfield, Gensler principal and its Global Cities and Urban Design Leader, means creating opportunity. “For me, it’s about the drive to create a more balanced and just city, one that offers neighborhoods of choice for all races and all income levels,” he says, stressing the importance of bringing positive change for all. See “Designer of the Moment” interview.
Managing Partner (Chicago), SOM
“Climate change is the defining challenge of our time—locally and globally. Addressing climate change is a collective effort, and in 2022 I hope to see much more collaboration and action across industries in targeting net-zero design and sustainable development,” says Xuan Fu. “Designing for sustainability is not project-specific, but how that project folds into a larger mission of protecting our planet and providing opportunities for future generations. From looking at the health of the Great Lakes, to the Chicago River, and the buildings and spaces in our city, everything is connected. Our city is already a leader in the fight against climate change, and the design community has a critical role to play.” Xuan, who’s helped shape sustainability policy, research, and the design of the built environment internationally throughout her career, is always looking for opportunities to showcase Chicago’s design talent to the world. “Global challenges require global solutions, and Chicago is a truly global city,” she says. “It has such a rich design legacy and promising future, and I am excited to continue to share our design innovations and best practices with leaders, developers and contractors on a global scale.”
Commissioner, Department of Planning and Development (DPD), City of Chicago
Merging architecture, design and politics through public, private and elected positions, Maurice Cox, Commissioner of the Department of Planning and Development, has a long tenure in the art and design world—he was formerly the design director of the National Endowment for the Arts under President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama, where he represented the federal government for architecture and design matters and served as an advisor to more than 120 mayors on urban design issues. Mayor Lightfoot lured him away from a similar role in Detroit, where he was acclaimed for a surge in equitable revitalization, and gave him a similar charge here. His mission: to foster community improvement initiatives throughout the city—focusing primarily on underinvested neighborhoods on the South and West Sides, which is off to a strong start through the “Invest South/West” initiative, which has channeled more than 1.4 billion dollars into projects in just two years.
Brian Vitale and Todd Heiser
Co-Managing Directors/Principals, Gensler
“While design has always in one way or another focused on reinvention, it is now more relevant than ever,” says Brian Vitale, who’s co-managing director at Gensler’s Chicago office alongside Todd Heiser. “Chicago is at a critical point in history; many of the most established areas, institutions, and values are being debased without a plan for resurrection. In 2022, the designers of the city must throw away our romantic memories of the city and think broadly to provide an audacious vision for what it can be,” he says. “We are sitting at the bottom of one of those often talked about Madonna Curves, and it is time for design and designers to champion this conversation and reinvent for a brighter and more prosperous future for all.” One of the most important projects they are undertaking? “We are redefining what I like to call, the ‘biggest boutique in the city.’ Our office has an extremely large impact on the city and thus the environment that we work in must be carefully curated and designed to inspire diverse, provocative and audacious ideas. We are focused on what that means, post-pandemic, and what our physical presence together should be,” he says. “It’s not enough to just be together, so we are currently experimenting with how the future of collaboration is experienced and what its outcome will be.”
The Hall of Fame: Architecture and the Built Environment
*= new this year
* Carol Ross Barney
Founder/Design Principal, Ross Barney Architects
Founding Principal, Dirk Denison Architects
Founding Principal, Studio Gang
Founder, Rebuild Foundation
Director, MAS Studio
* Thomas Kelley and Carrie Norman
Partners, Norman Kelley
* Dave Mason
Principal/Strategy Director, Multiple and Co-Founder, CUSP Conference
Founding Principal, John Ronan Architects
* Bob Somol
Director, School of Architecture, UIC
* John Vinci
Principal, Vinci Hamp Architects
Contact: email@example.com Website: www.rigouvasia.com