Madlener House
4 West Burton Place
Chicago, Illinois 60610
Telephone: 312.787.4071


Where If Not Us? Participatory Design and Its Radical Approaches
Mathias Heyden & Ines Schaber
JUN 27, 2013 - AUG 24, 2013

The Graham Foundation is pleased to present Where If Not Us? Participatory Design and Its Radical Approaches, an exhibition of visual research by architect Mathias Heyden and artist Ines Schaber. Focusing on the work of seven U.S.-based community design architects and planners and their projects, the exhibition presents the findings of a multi-year research project funded by the Graham Foundation.

Rarely documented and not yet comprehensively researched, the participatory design movement—a socially engaged architecture and planning practice that cultivates citizen involvement and empowerment—began in the 1960s and grew out of a common concern to democratize design by actively involving all stakeholders. Thousands of projects have been realized throughout the U.S. in the past 50 years by community design centers and professionals who advocated for those without representation in the development process. Recording the history of the work of these pioneering practitioners is crucial as a new generation of architects and planners begin to re-imagine contemporary public interest design.

Acknowledging the difficulty in capturing this legacy using traditional methods of architectural documentation, Heyden and Schaber’s research method is designed to suggest how participatory architecture and planning is actually used and how that use develops over time. In addition to photography and interviews, multiple site visits were intrinsic to their research methodology—revisiting them with the protagonists that lead the projects sometimes decades after their initiation. Through these case studies, the exhibition reexamines the development of the participatory design movement and provides an alternative visual strategy for better understanding the social impact of architecture and the role that it plays in building communities.

Presented for the first time, the exhibition brings together Heyden and Schaber’s findings in the form of a dialogic installation consisting of in-depth video interviews with the projects’ protagonists, color photographs of exemplary projects visited and revisited throughout the five-year research period, a series of posters, and booklets that include detailed accounts of each project while offering an investigation of each protagonist’s position on questions about radicality in the field of community design. Additionally, there is a reference table with publications significant to the history, theory, and development of the participatory design movement and documentation from a previous publication and exhibition project that Heyden completed on the subject in 2008 with German architecture magazine An Architektur. Seen as a whole, the project does not simply document rarely visualized participatory design projects, it also puts forth a new mode of investigation that utilizes oral histories alongside visual research to both record and activate this under recognized history.

Mathias Heyden is a Berlin-based architect, activist, organizer, author, curator, and co-founder of community project K 77. Currently, he is an assistant professor of urban design and architecture at the Institute of Architecture, Technical University Berlin. Heyden is the author of numerous publications including Hier entsteht. Strategien partizipativer Architektur und räumlicher Aneignung (Under Construction, Strategies of Participatory Architecture and Spatial Appropriation) with Jesko Fezer, 2004 and the exhibition and magazines An Architektur 19-21: Community Design. Involvement and Architecture in the US since 1963 (with An Architektur, 2008).

Ines Schaber is an artist and writer based in Berlin, Germany. She holds a master in fine arts from the Academy of Fine Arts in Berlin and a PhD in research architecture from Goldsmiths College in London. Her work has been shown at the Storefront for Art and Architecture (New York); the Brussels Biennial (Brussels); Centre d’art Passerelle (Brest); Art Sheffield (Sheffield, UK), Kunsthall Mucsarnok (Budapest); and Documenta 13 (Kassel). Previous Graham-funded projects include Movers and Shapers (2001) in collaboration with the architect Jörg Stollmann, which investigated the visual politics of master-planned communities in Arizona, and Picture Mining (2006). Her recent publications include The Workhouse (with Avery Gordon) and Obtuse, Flitting By but Nevertheless There–Image Archives in Practise, both forthcoming.


Graham Adams is an architect, landscape architect, and president of Adams Group Architects. Projects visited include: Creating New Housing in a Post-Industrial Neighborhood, 1979-1980, revisited 2010 (Edgemont, NC); and Floor Plans for a Different Form of Learning, 1992-1994, revisited 2010 (Davidson, NC).

Roberta Feldman is co-founder of the City Design Center, Chicago, and a Professor Emerita in the School of Architecture at University of Illinois at Chicago. Projects visited include: Working with a Community for Years, ongoing since 1996, revisited 2011 (Wentworth Gardens, Chicago); Strategies Against Gentrification, 2004-2010, revisited 2011 (North Lawndale, Chicago); Housing as a Human Right, ongoing since the late 1990s, revisited 2011 (Public Housing Museum, Chicago).

Landon Bone Baker Architects is a Chicago-based architectural practice. Projects visited include: Working in an Area of Major Historical and Societal Struggles, ongoing since 2007, revised 2011 (Woodlawn Center South, Chicago); Public Housing Rehab and New Mixed-Income Infill, 1999–2004, revisited 2011 (Archer Courts, Chicago); Dotting Affordable Housing within a Distressed Neighborhood, 2005, revisited 2011 (Harold Washington Community Co-operative, Chicago).

David Perkes is the founding director of the Gulf Coast Community Design Studio, Biloxi, MS. Project visited: Rebuilding Low-Income Neighborhoods in the Wake of Hurricane Katrina, ongoing since 2005, revisited 2010 (Biloxi, MS).

Michael Rios is an associate professor in the Department of Environmental Design and Chair of the Community Development Graduate Group at UC Davis. Formerly, Rios was the director of the Hamer Center for Community Design and the president of the Association of Community Design. Projects visited include: Organizing Public Interest Design, 1997-1999, revisited 2010 (Union Point Park, Oakland); A Public Transport Hub Becomes a Zócalo for Multiple Publics, 1995-1998, revisited 2010 (Plaza del Colibri, San Francisco).

Henry Sanoff is the founder and former director of the Community Development Group, Raleigh, NC. Projects visited include: Revitalization of a Small Town’s Main Street, 1982, revisited 2010 (Selma, NC); Neighborhood by Initiative, 1979-1980, revisited 2010 (Edgemont, NC); and New Topologies for Teaching and Learning, 1992-1994, revisited 2010 (Davidson, NC).

Ron Shiffman is co-founder and former director of the Pratt Center for Community Development, New York City. Projects visited include: Four Decades of Community-Based Empowerment, ongoing since the early 1970s, revisited 2011 (Brooklyn).

Additional participants include:

Roger Borgenicht (Director, Assist Community Design Center, Salt Lake City); Brandy Brooks (Director of Community Programs, The Food Project, Boston); Monica Chadha (Co-Founder, Converge: Exchange, Chicago); Kathy Dorgan (Kathleen Dorgan Architecture & Planning, Storrs); Daniel J. Glenn (Principal, Glenn and Glenn Architects, Seattle); Sharon Haar (Associate Professor, University of Illinois at Chicago); Sally W. Harrison (Associate Professor, Tyler School of Art, Philadelphia); Jeffrey Hou (Associate Professor, University of Washington, Seattle) and Alan J. Plattus (Director, Yale Urban Design Workshop, Yale University, New Haven).

Funding for Where If Not Us? Participatory Design and Its Radical Approaches has been provided by the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts and the Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen.


From top, left to right: Ronald Shiffman, Henry Sanoff, Graham Adams, David Perkes, Michael Rios, Roberta Feldman, Catherine Baker / Peter Landon / Jeff Bone; Mathias Heyden and Ines Schaber, Edgemont, Durham, North Carolina, USA, 2010.