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The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Award for Architectural Excellence in Community Design - Third Place

Johnson & Lee Architects for St. Edmund’s Oasis

When St. Edmund’s Redevelopment Corporation came to Washington Park in 1987, the area around the historic church was quite different from today – notable more for the vast number of vacant buildings and lots than for the historic church that graced Michigan Avenue at 61st Street. 

Since then St. Edmund’s has renovated more than 35 buildings – providing affordable housing for hundreds of families – but also reviving and changing the market. 

Thus the challenge given to Johnson & Lee Architects was to create a complex of buildings on 14 disparate lots that would offer affordable housing while at the same time fit seamlessly into the building types in this changing, but still historic, neighborhood. 

With this in mind, the Johnson & Lee Architects team chose materials and colors that pay homage to and respect the surrounding structures. At the same time, with modern day concerns of traffic and the desire for ‘defensible space,’ the units on disparate lots have been thoughtfully configured to maximize both privacy and communal space. Most dwellings have individual front and back doors, allowing control of who comes and goes. 

The buildings have been arranged in a way that provides plentiful and attractive interior common areas, including courtyards, gardens and play areas – an additional plus for parents is that children’s play areas are visible from all homes. Inside the dwellings are light, roomy and outfitted with high-quality durable materials that both enhance residents’ lives and provide lower maintenance and replacement costs. 

All of this, notably, was completed for under $200 a square foot, cheaper than a typical new construction project. 

“Our part of Washington Park is once again becoming a community of choice,” says Father Richard Tolliver. “While we welcome the professionals and middle class families that are coming to or coming back to Washington Park, we are committed to maintaining affordable housing for those who’ve been here throughout.” 

“That’s why we call it ‘Oasis’ – it’s a perfect name for the affordable mixed income building that we hoped for and that Johnson & Lee Architects have created.”