Jun 29, 2022 Winner, 2nd place, The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Award for Architectural Excellence in Community Design

Altgeld Gardens is a neighborhood that is largely isolated from the surrounding city due to industrial developments to the north and east and the Little Calumet River to the south. The location of the development is a reminder of the post-war legacy of environmental racism. Pedestrian, bicycle and public transit connections are scarce at Altgeld Gardens, with the nearest Red Line station 37 blocks away.

Despite these realities, Koo LLC’s design of Altgeld Family Resource Center serves as a beacon of hope. The 40,000-square-foot facility includes a Chicago Public Library branch, child care center and community center in the Altgeld Gardens Chicago Housing Authority development. Sited at the “town center,” the building’s curvilinear perimeter echoes the arched forms of the adjacent Keck & Keck retail building, the rounded shapes of the existing town center plaza and the curved streets of the surrounding site plan. Designed as a continuous ribbon, the building is intended to be experienced from all sides, so there is no front or back.

Community engagement was central to Koo’s building design process. The architects participated in meetings with community stakeholders, culminating in two community-wide meetings that established the priorities of the neighborhood and reviewed physical planning proposals and the building design.

Koo’s innovative design of the Altgeld Family Resource Center adds to a grand plaza that serves as Altgeld’s outdoor civic gathering space, and upends the expectations of public housing architecture. The design for the center invites Altgeld residents, and Chicagoans across the city, to see the neighborhood with fresh eyes. Filling a physical and metaphorical void in the town center, the new building provides interior and exterior areas where children and adults can feel safe and inspired to gather and enjoy their community.