Skip to main content

The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Award for Architectural Excellence in Community Design, 1st Place

Landon Bone Baker Architects Ltd for Fred and Pamela Buffett Place

Too often a focus on process can get in the way of delivering a quality product. But sometimes, when project planners reach out to everyone with something to contribute, the process begets brilliance.

How else to describe how Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), Brinshore Development and Thresholds — Illinois’ largest provider of mental health services to the needy — went about engaging talent capable of converting what had been an infamous SRO into a bright, life-affirming place that feels like home?

Architect Jeff Bone’s team listened carefully at a series of pre-development workshops for tenants and community stakeholders as folks vented on what they didn’t like about the old Diplomat Hotel ... and their hopes for the redo. Top-of-list was a sunlit place other than the sidewalk next to the liquor store at Belmont and Sheffield for residents to socialize. Hence an early decision to demolish a single-story interior structure to make room for an internal courtyard/living room that reflects sunlight throughout. Oh, and a rooftop green garden with skyline views not often associated with affordable housing.

Reducing the number of rooms to 51 from 91 yielded wider corridors, apartments with their own baths, and public spaces decorated with artwork crafted especially for Buffett Place. The non-profit archi-treasures led the latter effort, its lobby capstone a composite photograph of artwork produced by Thresholds residents overlain by the script “home” milled from reclaimed hardwood. Another non-profit, the ReBuilding Exchange, salvaged hardwood joists and framing to craft one-of-a-kind benches, bookshelves and coat racks that all but whisper “home.” Chicago Botanic Garden helped with landscaping, and Thresholds is opening an Urban Flowers shop, both to engage its residents ... and alert pedestrians that this stretch of Sheffield is no longer to be avoided.

“The level of involvement by different players,” said LBB project manager Claudia Rodriguez. “That was the dynamic that drove the outcome.”