Saving Affordable Housing in Chicago


Save Altgeld Coalition - Chicago IL, USA

Project Goal: To support the community coalition in establishing a sustainable action plan. 

Partners: People for Community Recovery, Chicago Legal Clinic, Preservation Chicago, Chicago Housing Initiative

Big Win: After presenting the community made plan to Chicago Housing Authority the coalition saved 97% of the houses slated for demolition.

Services provided: Facilitation, community design, Community engagement, analysis, advocacy, client representation

The Chicago Housing Authority earmarked $7.3 million of its proposed 2013 budget for “planning for demolition” of 648 units at Altgeld. “They wanted to just knock down the vacant units with no future plans,” she says, in a tone of disbelief. The demolition would have cut the number of units at the project by around a third. Johnson says that over 200 Altgeld residents showed up at the public comment meeting on the budget after the “planning for demolition” came to light. Activist organizations throughout the city, including the Chicago Housing Initiative, Preservation Chicago, and Architecture for Humanity, banded together to form the Save Altgeld Coalition. When PCR discovered that Altgeld had, in 1993, been found eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, the organization contacted the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which began a review of the CHA’s development plans. As an eligible location for Historic Place status, any major changes to Altgeld must be reviewed by HUD.

Altgeld residents have put forth their own community development plan for Altgeld and the surrounding area. The plan is an attempt “to show them,” Johnson says, “that we have a vision as much as they have a vision.” In collaboration with Open Architecture Chicago and several green-tech businesses, including Biojam, a clean-energy company headed by PCR board president Christian Strachan, they plan to bring in a variety of green initiatives to create jobs and help deal with the persistent environmental problems in the area.

Read more in a local publication>

Listen to Tom Veed, former chapter Director, present the effort>

Burrows Pocket Park


Burrows Pocket Park - San Francisco CA, USA

Project Goal: To transform a dead end dumping ground to a gathering space for the Portola Neighborhood. 

Client: Portola Neighborhood Association 

Partners: Mayor's Office of Economic and Workforce Development, Lincoln Motor Company, Architectural Digest, Rebar Group, Artist Jason Jagel, Engineered Artworks

Services Delivered: Community engagement, schematic design, project management, construction administration, fundraising, marketing 

As one part of a project to create an accessible pedestrian path along the I-80 freeway in San Francisco, the Burrows Pocket Park was a community driven pilot in response to the neighborhood divide caused by eminent domain and the construction of a freeway. One volunteer, Architect Reaz Harque connected with the local chapter and eventually the Mayor's office to assist the Portola Neighborhood Association. Phase one involved clearing out the trash, as the site was used as a dumping ground, creating a bioswale and a sustainable xeriscape native plant garden, along with repaving the street. 

Phase two involved larger support to provide furniture, a mural and additional features which eventually lead to a coffee shop opening in the dead end, and a local 5th grade class building and installing their own little free library complete with a green roof. 

The local chapter is currently helping with the next phase and the transformation of another dead end block two streets over! The legacy continues and they Portola Neighborhood Association continues to draw funding for these projects. 

Design for Children


Design For Children, Washington D.C.

Project Goal: To strengthen the network of childcare providers, upgrade facilities so they may serve more children. 

Client: DC Metro Area Childcare Facilities 

Partners: Office of the State Superintendent of Education, Footsteps of Children, PUSH Academy, Happy Faces Learning Center, Little Samaritan Child Development Center

Services Delivered: Program Creation, community organizing, research, meeting facilitation, community engagement, schematic design.

Though more than 60% of American families rely on childcare services during their baby’s most formative early years, the U.S. government allocates no funding to assist them. Many facilities are overcrowded, outdated, or disappearing altogether, as lease rates increase and building owners opt for more glamorous tenants like new restaurants. Nowhere are these issues more pronounced than in our nation’s capital.

The first steps were a call for OADC volunteers and in-depth research, which included meeting with the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) and surveying every childcare provider in D.C. The team then organized a workshop for all interested childcare providers. Providers were introduced to OADC and the Design for Children mission. In turn, each provider shared issues they faced and possible improvements for each center were discussed.

In May, only 3 months after starting, the volunteers provided Bonnie a full schematic design package. She will soon be able to open her newly designed childcare center, Footsteps of Children, and serve even more families than in her previous location.

OADC volunteers are currently helping LaTrell Duncan navigate building codes and design plans to turn an empty space she found into PUSH Academy — a name highlighting what excites Ms. Duncan most about this project “Promoting Universal STEM Hub.”


Read More on Our Blog>

Reclaiming Space in Cairo


Forgotten Spaces - Cairo Egypt 

Project Goal: Empower residents of Istabl Antar, Cairo to take control of the public space around them.

Client: Residents of Istabl Antar 

Services Delivered: Community Engagement, design facilitation, schematic design, implantation coordination, assessment


Forgotten Spaces is a participatory design and construct project aiming to seek out redundant and neglected spaces across Istabl Antar which is a self-built community in Cairo.

The aim of this project is to demonstrate how forgotten spaces can be utilized in cost effective ways to act as catalysts for social, economic & environmental regeneration. Under the guidance of Hebatullah Hendaway, chapter and regional leader, members of the community, both young and old engaged in small pilot projects to gauge the impact and discover what demographics were likely to engage in different types of work.

The team is now analyzing the impact of these small projects, mostly panted areas, and using the results to drive the second phase of the project.

TreeSquare – Stormwater Mitigation


TreeSquare - Portland OR, USA 

Project Goal:  To provide seating and shade while mitigating stormwater flooding.

Client: Vernon Elementary Public School - Portland 

Partners: De-PaveAnkrom Moisan ArchitectsTurner ConstructionLower Columbia Estuary Partnership

Services Delivered: Project Coordination, Subject Matter Recruitment, Design/Build and fabrication.


Vernon Elementary School invited Open Architecture Collaborative’s Portland Chapter (OACPDX) to provide design services. The collaborative developed three concepts, and presented them to student representatives and the school’s Parents Association, who chose the final concept to be implemented. The design-build initiative consisted of removing pavement for stormwater management, planting trees and adding benches to the school’s playground.

The collective environmental effort remarkably transformed the playground into a play space that now responsibly manages stormwater and offers space for the newly planted trees to thrive. While the new tree canopy provides shade the juniper benches protect the trees and offer spaces for everyone to sit while surrounded in play space. The new trees and breaks in the concrete also reduce the volume of water flowing through gutters and along roads after a storm resulting in less runoff, as well as cleaner water entering local rivers and lakes.

Read more details on our blog>

Taller del Habitat


Taller Del Habitat - Bogota Colombia 

Project Goal:  Help people living in informal settlements in Bogota receive all the services required to build their homes or small businesses.

Client: Residents of the Bosa neighborhood in south eastern Bogota

Partners: Asojuntas Bosa ComunalConstituyente BosaProcesos IncluyentesCopacos BosaBosa Ruta SieteBosa CarbonelRadio Rumbo 107.4 FM and Suyo.

Services Delivered:  Design, program creation, partnerships formed, initial seed funding raised, organization launched.


"We struggled doing many types of projects to find what fit. Each effort gave us insight and a small piece of what we understand now. "
Ricardo Daza

In Colombia people build incrementally, purchase materials incrementally, and take their chances on legal support as they have enough money to hire someone to secure a title. Architecture for Humanity Bogotá, as the local chapter is known, first partnered with the national government seven years ago to help individual families improve their housing conditions.

In most informal housing situations people purchase materials as they had money, and only after acquiring enough would they begin building, section by section. After speaking with those building in this way, they discovered that people are willing to pay for materials, because you need things to make a home, and legal support to gain titles and deeds, but they were not willing to pay for design services. In order to afford legal fees without large lump sums of cash people often go to informal lenders to borrow money at a very high rate of interest to hire — with a large risk of fraud — legal support.

The chapter won a grant and competition by proposing a business model instead of a solution to a specific project. They used the funding to launch a pilot program to begin giving shape to the informal housing process and to give people equal access to quality materials and services. Taller Del Habitat is that business which provides wrap around services to families in South East Bogota.

Read more on our blog>

Follow the effort on Facebook>

Day of Impact


Annual Day of Impact - New York, NY USA

Project Goal: Support 5-8 local non-profits and schools with repair, restorations and construction projects with teams of volunteer designers.

Client: 15 Non-Profits across the 5 Burroughs of NYC

Services Delivered: Program management, Site coordination, Volunteer recruitment, Marketing and Communications

“We loved your volunteers, we eagerly look forward to 2017!” 
Catherine Stein
Special Projects Manager Publicolor

Designers cannot successfully build for their surrounding community without engaging with their neighbors. Community volunteer opportunities are limited within the design industry, time is rarely allocated, and community engagement training is almost non-existent.

After more than 10 years of producing community engaged design projects and events in New York area, the chapter decided to consolidate their efforts into one annual event. This event, called the Day of Impact, works with community non-profits and educational organizations to provide them with design services and hands on labor.

The initial partners included: PublicolorNYC Parks (formerly Million Trees)Partnership for Parks, “It’s My Park”Hunters Point Park ConservatoryCITYartsLower East Side EcologyNew York Cares and Rebuilding Together. The volunteer efforts ranged from painting schools, planting street trees, cleaning up parks and helping remodeling lower income homes in Brooklyn. For more detail on all the partnerships and the OACny support please see this doc.

OACny has successfully executed our the Day of Impact for three years, with the fourth in the works now. In total, we have partnered with 10 community organizations, facilitated over 300 volunteers for over 3,000 hours of labor including production time.

Read more details on our blog>

Child Friendly City – Abuja


Child Friendly City - Abuja Nigeria

Project Goal: Develop programming for children to utilize and define public space.

Client: Children of Abuja

Partners: Mixed Events, Kids at Play, WE, Project Pink Blue

Services Delivered: Program Creation, Event Coordination

Visibly recognized as one of the biggest challenges of urbanism is consummation of open public spaces. The continual neglect and growth of deferred maintenance leads to the decay of public spaces, with playgrounds suffering the most. PLAY is a tool to restore city fabrics. In Abuja we involve both the young and old in a public space renewal process that feature skating as a means to build confidence, ownership of public spaces, and of course inspire fun.

Open Architecture Nigeria (OAN) initiated an annual event called the Kids Skating Series in 2015 for one day of collective action to engage young children of diverse background and status in Abuja. We called these events outdoor skating cocktails. While the main goal is to drive home the importance of play spaces by putting children literally on center stage it also seeks to advocate for the power of public spaces as a unique tool for effective community engagement and a culture of ownership.