Last year, Little Black Pearl, a community arts center in Hyde Park launched a charter school called the Options Laboratory, offering an arts and technology-based curriculum for young folks that have had trouble succeeding in traditional educational environments.  They are also running a series of after-school programs, including a poetry class and a woodshop experience.  Meshed together, under the auspices of a grant won by local arts education non-profit Urban Gateways, the program was named WordsWood.  On Thursday afternoons, a crew of nine young men would be studying poetry with local writer Avery Young, and on Fridays, they would be working on designing and building some chairs with me.  

I started out the curriculum with a simple exercise: measuring our own bodies and a bunch of different chairs.  The idea was to engage the students in realizing that there are reasons behind the way things are in the world, on a meta-level -- why chairs are the height they are, why they are the width they are, why doorknobs are the size they are, etc. -- and work on the practical skills of reading a tape measure, making readable sketches, and translating real-world data into a visual form.  We discussed different kinds of drawings -- elevations, plans, and sections, and got familiar with the dimensions of our world.

The modern wing of Little Black Pearl arts center.


Guerilla Truck Show

This week, after a long day of sanding redwood and making desktops out of doors (and door jambs), I hustled over the Fulton Street Market for the eighth annual Guerilla Truck Show, a loading-dock party thrown by the Morlen Sinoway Atelier.  I was covered in sawdust, and reeked of turpentine, but hey, a sucker for all things guerilla, I got there right as it opened at 5:30. The timing was a little unfortunate; many of the food trucks had yet to show up, a number of the booths were still pulling up, and the low, hard sun had my camera messing up.  So, I will apologize at the top here for some of the photography, which, even by my own mediocre standards, suffered due to the time of day, the dim trucks, the crowds, and the inability to step back and get a full shot of nearly anything.

West Fulton Market Street is a mix of old, industrial Chicago and newer, cultural manufacturing.  Right down the street from hip design-firm lofts, art galleries, and mid-century modern antique stores are truck repair shops, meatpacking plants, and empty silos formerly full of wheat.  A mix of gastropubs and fancy sit-down restaurants are slotted into soaring-ceilinged spaces, facing a street that is largely uninhabited after dark.  The El and industrial train tracks provide a steady background grumble of rattling steel.

At times, the street is lined on both sides with high loading docks.  Taking advantage of the loading docks, the Guerilla Truck Show uses 16' rental box trucks as show booths.  This makes a lot of sense -- cheap, fast, light, and easy to set-up and break down, with minimal investment by the backers.  The show runs only one night each year, during the week, which cuts down on interrupting traffic and costs.  

The following is a selection of my favorites, as far as my brief visit allowed.  The selection is somewhat limited by time, and booths that weren't set up yet.  My choices, and the show itself, is mostly about furniture, but there were art booths, theater booths, and food trucks.  

I really don't want to be a part of the unfortunate conflation of "guerilla" and "gorilla", but hey, here we are.


Sonic Trace

Despite my best efforts, I failed to put up a post last week because I have been devoting my spare time to another architecture competition.  Unlike my last contest experience, this one had a much shorter timeframe, and I was in quite a rush to get it done.

KCRW is a public radio station in Los Angeles.  I have listened, as podcasts, to many of their programs over the years, including Good Food, Morning Becomes Eclectic, and DnA.  I was visiting my old favorite BLDGBLOG the other day and came across one of Geoff's periodic link roundups, which included a number of upcoming contests.  One was for Sonic Trace, designing and constructing a mobile sound booth for KCRW to use to collect stories from around California.

I couldn't resist.  This one hit all of my architectural obsessions: design/build, small-scale, mobile, sustainable, and engaged in the telling of stories.  It has a tight budget, and includes some video on DIY soundproofing, a boot-strapping approach with which I am quite familiar.  Coincidentally, I had just been looking at a teardrop trailer on Instructables, and thinking, as I often do, about the nomadism that has brought me here to Chicago.

I built a model in SketchUp, printed it, traced layers, re-scanned those layers, and composited the result in Photoshop.