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Inside the New Chicago Architecture Foundation Design Studio

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Future architects and designers are being cultivated right here in Chicago, thanks to the Chicago Architecture Foundation's (CAF) ArcelorMittal Design Studio at CAF's building at Michigan and Jackson. The Design Studio is an independent space dedicated to introducing design concepts to individuals of all ages.

Opened in September 2013, the space was designed with an architectural education in mind. "The intent was this is a studio space; we looked at architectural school studios as an influence. The idea is to have a really flexible, well thought out space," states Manny Juarez, Senior Manager of Youth and Teacher Engagement at CAF. "It was a blank slate, but as things progressed, artifacts and 'evidence' began to accumulate."

This "evidence" consists of stunning design models made by visitors and program participants, ages two to 80. The studio's storefront windows act as a display, filling the space with natural light and beckoning passers-by to enter. Architecture Studio Legos are notable in the display, assembled into remarkable structures that demonstrate architectural concepts. "We inevitably wanted to have a huge impact on the street outside," says Juarez.

CAF maintains extensive youth and teen programming, bringing Chicago Public Schools students, independent after-school programs—even international school groups—to the space. Their unique programming also takes students out of the studio, traveling to architecture schools in Chicago and around the country. Though CAF has this extensive reach, they plan to continue expanding. Laura Stamatkin, Coordinator of Teen Engagement, hopes to have the space full of future architects, nine to five, every day: "We want to have programs here all of the time, for kids, teens, and adults. We want to make sure that we have programs available for diverse groups."

Ultimately, the Design Studio is an educational space, with a mission to teach critical thinking and problem solving skills inherent in design education. "Everyone is a designer," says Tocarra Mallard, CAF's Coordinator of Youth Engagement. "Even if you're not a professional, you use the same processing skills used in design. We're teaching that process—failure is okay, to always try again, and taking time to sort through solutions."

The Design Studio is open to the public Monday through Friday.

—Anjulie Rao

· CAF Design Studio [official]