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#454 Toward an Office of the Public Architect


Ann Lui, Principal, Future Firm & Assistant Professor of Practice, University of Michigan

When you are accused of a crime, if you cannot afford a lawyer, you have the right to a public defender. When issued a building violation, should you also have the right to a Public Architect?

In 2016, Chicago building inspectors issued over 36,000 violations. Some violations can be resolved by hiring a contractor; however, most require a licensed architect which can be prohibitively expensive and hard to access for many homeowners. The Office of the Public Architect is a proposal for a consolidated resource for design services, offering faster, compassionate, and dignified resolution of violations for residents. The Office of the Public Architect could serve as a counterweight to the inspection arm of the Department of Buildings, working on behalf of Chicago’s citizens through collective investment in the city’s architecture. The proposal for an Office of the Public Architect asks: can more accessible design services achieve a safe and humane built environment for all?

This talk will also explore the current landscape of building violations, the systemic issues hindering access to design services in Chicago, as will as the histories of discrimination in the City’s South- and West- sides which has led to today’s conditions. Additionally, it will include a short “sci-fi”-style speculation which allows us to time travel to a future Office of the Public Architect. Lastly, it will also briefly feature similar resources currently available in Chicago for residents in need.

ASL This event will not have an American Sign Language interpreter.