Chicago Design Office provides a radical model of design practice for the 21st century. We are a collaborative, transparent, progressive, feminist, and socially- and ethically-engaged organization, deploying design thinking at multiple scales to produce new types of urbanism. We argue for design to stake a conscious political claim, with an emphasis on working in and for the public realm. Great design is, first and foremost, a public service to which everyone has an equal right.  

We exist at the intersection of architecture, landscape architecture, urban planning, and urban design, using large-scale research frameworks to create carefully detailed, experience-focused environments.

We are philosophically grounded in Chicago for two primary reasons. The first is that Chicago is a robust manifestation of what we can broadly call "American" issues and planning objectives, both positive and negative. By working with Chicago as a frame of reference, we can learn to work more effectively elsewhere in the nation. The second is Chicago's incredible capacity in the 21st century for a new avant-garde.  CDO argues that design can be produced in response to issues rather than to site, client, or developer requirements; this process pushes us to evolve beyond existing planning, zoning, and development ideologies.

Today, architectural production has become one of Chicago's primary exports --- we see examples of its impact as far as MumbaiDubaiNairobi, and Berlin. CDO aims to expand upon this global identity by creating work that addresses issues within the US, across the North American continent, and in postcolonial and emerging economic conditions, which we believe will be the new and most exciting frontiers of urbanism in this century.             

The November 2016 letter published by the American Institute of Architects, now reversed, makes abundantly clear that individual designers have a responsibility to think beyond standard professional obligations. Arriving at design through issues-based research liberates us from the typical client-designer-contractor triad; thus, we are able to pursue design opportunities and potentials unconstrained by sometimes arbitrary parameters.

Many of our collaborators are involved in the academy, and value research as an essential component of contemporary design thinking.  

How we operate : design research

  • Define the issue
  • Analyze the status quo using visual design tools and methods
  • Propose new designs and disseminate new ideas
  • Iterate ideas as proposals generate new knowledge and affect public experience           

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