Re[CREATE]ing a New Pocket Park on the Commons

This summer, the Re[CREATE]Ed Spaces program brought together more than 20 rising junior and senior high school students from across the city to redesign a vacant lot on Sweet Water Foundation’s Perry Avenue Commons. The goal: use digital media, technology and the Pocket Park Design Challenge to design a pocket park that provides much needed educational programming space for Sweet Water Foundation (SWF) and recreational and reflection space for the community.

Google Map image (left) and picture (right) of the vacant lots that students in the Re[CREATE]Ed Spaces Program redesigned into a Pocket Park.

Google Map image (left) and picture (right) of the vacant lots that students in the Re[CREATE]Ed Spaces Program redesigned into a Pocket Park.

Re[CREATE]Ed Spaces provided students with the necessary tools to understand the importance of design that is rooted with the community needs.
— Rose Florian, Sweet Water Foundation Lead for the Re[CREATE]Ed Spaces Program

SWF architecture interns from Chicago Public Schools’ Career and Technical Education program and After School Matters collaborated with the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s (CAF) Teen Fellows Program for four weeks to recreate an educational space. The program kicked off with a downtown pocket park walking tour through which students learned about the elements of pocket park design and function. Next, the teens conducted a series of meetings to hear the needs of the community and Sweet Water Foundation staff, share their designs and get feedback. These sessions enabled them to design with the community in mind and refine their pocket park designs to best meet the needs of their ‘clients.’

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Throughout the program, students used digital tools that included Sketchup, Google Slides, Google Photos, and Pinterest. They also practiced sketching and drafting by hand, and learned principles of community-driven design, communication skills, and foundations of architecture.

After weeks of listening to community feedback and refining their designs to best to align with Sweet Water Foundation’s goal of regenerating the neighborhood into a vibrant community, the students presented their final designs to an audience of architects, community members, and peers at the Chicago Architecture Foundation in late July (see images below).

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For Sweet Water Foundation interns, the final presentation was not the end of the Re[CREATE]Ed Spaces Program. During the final two weeks of their internships, SWF interns turned their focus to carpentry to build elements of their pocket park designs. Students worked with SWF’s Industrial Designer, Rudy Taylor, and Executive Director, Emmanuel Pratt, to design and construct benches for the future pocket park. 


The success of the Re[CREATE]Ed Spaces Program this summer couldn’t have been possible without the generous support of the Chicago Community Trust’s Hive Chicago Fund for Connected Learning, our partnership with the Chicago Architecture Foundation team, and Sweet Water Foundation's Graduate Summer Associate, Rose Florian. Rose is an architect and current graduate school student in Urban Design at Harvard's Graduate School of Design that spent her summer leading SWF’s architecture internship program, giving step-by-step instruction throughout the design process and providing foundational knowledge and skills on which students will continue to build.


The Sweet Water Foundation team has already begun to incorporate elements of this summer’s Re[CREATE]Ed Spaces Program and plans to complete the pocket park in time for Summer 2018.


Dejah Powell