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Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Award for Architectural Excellence, 2nd Place: Landon Bone Architects, for Archer Courts Apartments

When Landon Bone Architects received the assignment for the rehabilitation of Archer Courts Apartments, the 50- year- old Chicago Housing Authority development in the heart of Chinatown, they knew they faced a special challenge. Not only would the development be the first completed design to emerge from the CHA’s Plan for Transformation, it also would be one of the first buildings the CHA had ever sold to a non- governmental group. As such, it carried with it the challenge of creating a new standard of excellent design for the housing agency Acquired from the CHA in June 1999 by Chicago Community Development Corporation, a well-known developer of affordable housing, the two-building, 74-unit development’s future was uncertain. Built in 1951 to provide housing for families displaced by urban renewal on the West Side, by the 1990s the building was in disrepair, causing discomfort for both residents and the surrounding community. CCDC, which had been transforming distressed properties into community assets for more than a decade, felt that the structural soundness and vitality of the buildings made them good candidates for rehabilitation. Re-creating a development that was responsive to both tenant and community needs was the mandate given to Landon Bone Architects.

Located in Chinatown, and with a number of families of Chinese descent living in the Apartments, Landon Bone decided to weave Chinese features throughout the redeveloped property. This entailed, for example, including areas for Tai Chi, the Chinese system of physical exercises, as well as employing Feng Shui, the ancient Chinese art of "correct placement," in the design of everything from windows to doors and gateways in the reconfiguration of the building and the surrounding land. The most striking feature of the redesign is the addition of a multi-story curtain wall over the formerly exposed outdoor balconies that had served as the entryway to individual units. The wall completely changes the character of the buildings, bringing them much more in line with market-rate mid-rises.

Along with a full rehab of the 74 apartments, the architects also created a new wellness and community center that adds a focusing design element as well as a much- needed place for the community to gather. The $11.5 million renovation of Archer Courts is a successful first step in the public- private partnership that CHA has begun to redevelop public housing in neighborhood settings in Chicago. It is a commendable example of architects working with residents and the local community to create an asset that adds beauty to the lives of residents and the community alike.