How Can Architecture Solve Urban Problems?

We all try to do what we can to help make the world a better place. Especially at the holidays, one gets bombarded by pleas for support. Don’t worry, this is not one of those moments. Instead we’d like to share with you our new Chicago Detours Giving Initiative. It’s a little something we hope will help make the world a better place. Our guides contribute half of their gratuities over a four-month-span to a local organization. We’re happy to have found one, Archeworks, which directly connect with our company mission. As a socially responsible business, we endeavor to share the architecture, history and culture of Chicago.

Chicago Detours Giving Initiative

Archeworks Architecture Design ChicagoWe started this program just a few weeks ago, and we are now supporting Archeworks, a postgraduate design school in Chicago devoted to creating more healthy, equitable, and environmentally sustainable communities. Archeworks participants have a wide range of backgrounds, and work in multidisciplinary teams. They collaborate with nonprofit partners and many other community stakeholders to create innovative prototypes and other design solutions that address community needs.

We hope to raise $1,200 from tour gratuities through March 15, 2013 to support Archeworks’ Elemental Mud Workshop series, led by ecological systems designer, Nance Klehm. The March workshop will focus on water conservation and how to design a grey water system. This Archeworks class will meet at the ReBuilding Exchange, and build a working model on-site. A soil workshop exploring the life within urban soils will follow in April 2013.

Solving Social Problems

If you work in design, this idea of solving social problems through design is nothing new. For many others it may be a new idea. Perhaps a sort of cloudy impression of people saying “green” a lot. Or a mess of academic-sounding lingo, so let’s explain a little further.

Elementary Vintage Photo Class Room Physical environments – both urban places and interior spaces within buildings themselves – affect our mental states. And of course the architectural design of these physical environments can shape how we interact with one other. Older classrooms, for example, are designed for a teacher to stand by a blackboard with a row of students arrayed ahead. Contemporary design for the architecture of schools, often creates spaces that bring individuals together. Out of the strict and orderly rows and into groups for collaborative, social learning. More flexibility in classroom use, such as pictured here, can inspire creative interactive and educational opportunities.

Contemporary Architecture Lehmann FidanzaBeyond the design inside a building, its exterior also shapes how people interact with each other in public space. An Archeworks project from 2005 worked with CPS to better integrate the area of schools with the surrounding community. In other words, the landscape design could have differently designed physical barriers. These would welcome both students and the community to use the space. Architecture and urban design can spark these kinds of connections between people that help build community, and a strong community has all kinds of positive results, including less crime.

Other Archeworks Projects

Beyond these examples, Archeworks also focuses on the need for sustainably designed urban environments.  An Archeworks project from 2011 worked with the Chicago International Charter School in Irving Park to design and install a 20-barrel compost system that processes the school’s food waste and serves as a hands-on learning lab for the students and surrounding community.  In this way, innovative design educates students and staff about recycling and composting while addressing the need to reduce and reuse school waste. Multidisciplinary approaches to design can spark these kinds of connections between people to help build communities and create a healthier environment.

Founded in 1993 by Eva Maddox, who could make a museum out of her extensive collection of architectural design awards, and outspoken postmodern architect and author Stanley Tigerman, Archeworks is pretty cool. We’re happy to be connecting our Chicago Detours community with their programs.

— Amanda Scotese, Executive Director



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Private Tour Coordinator and Tour Guide

There is no shortage of things to discover in Chicago—I love being an urban explorer and uncovering its hidden places. I have an MA in Public History from Loyola University Chicago, and I have worked as a museum educator and kindergarten teacher. My desire to learn new things fuels my passion for educating others, which I get to experience every day as a Chicago tour guide. I live in the northern neighborhood of Rogers Park.

“Our guide Ellen was exceptional and gifted with a great personal touch.”


Tour Guide

Whether you are a first-time visitor or a lifelong resident, the vibrant history and modern majesty of Chicago never ceases to amaze. I’m a graduate of Columbia College with an M.A. in Interdisciplinary Art. I’ve worked for many years as an educator at City Colleges of Chicago. As tour guide at Chicago Detours, I integrate my enthusiasm for culture and architecture with my passion as an educator. West Town/Noble Square area is home for me.

“Jen was a perfect storyteller and kept us spellbound for hours.”


Tour Guide

With our Chicago neighborhoods, vibrant cultural institutions and nearly two centuries of larger-than-life stories, there’s never a dull moment here! I’m a fifth generation Chicagoan and a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis. In addition to guiding tours, I’m a creative writer and amateur genealogist. I also enjoy the city’s dynamic theater scene. You can also read overlooked stories from 19th-century newspapers on my “Second Glance History” blog. I live in River North.


Tour Guide

Chicago is unique as it always evolves into the future while holding on to the past. I’m fascinated by how people latch on to old architecture but happily pave over others. My background is in theater and performance and I’ve been a tour guide here for more than 10 years. Currently I’m finishing my Master’s in Public History at Loyola University because I love to teach the history of this scrappy city. I’m in the Edgewater neighborhood.


Operations Coordinator and Tour Guide

Chicago’s history is so fascinating, you could spend a lifetime uncovering its secrets…I’m willing to give it a try! I have an M.A. in US History from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and then pursued doctoral studies in Urban History at the University of Illinois at Chicago. I love to learn new aspects of Chicago’s rich history and then share my knowledge as a tour guide with Chicago Detours. I live in Ravenswood.

“Marie was a bubbling fountain of information and contagious enthusiasm.”


Operations Coordinator and Tour Guide

As a fourth generation Chicagoan, I have been living and loving Chicago by bike, on foot, public transit or automobile. I am a graduate of UIC where through the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs, began my eagerness to understand the nature, history and impacts of urban planning and development. It is incredibly rewarding to give back to this wonderful city by helping out in the office of Chicago Detours. I live in the incredibly diverse neighborhood of Albany Park.
“Sonny was extremely knowledgeable about all things Chi-town.”
Wade K


Content Manager and Tour Guide

Chicago has so many neighborhoods, buildings, and by-ways that it’s hard to go long without seeing something new, or something familiar from a new angle. I studied Cinema History for my M.A. from the University of Chicago. I’ve worked as a culture writer for various publications and as an educator of the humanities at the City Colleges of Chicago. I’m thrilled to share my love of this city’s busy past and unique architectural spaces with Chicago Detours. I live in the Chicago neighborhood of Lincoln Park.

“Alex was fascinating to listen to. He clearly knows his history and it shows.”
Katie K

Amanda Scotese

Executive Director and Tour Guide

I’m an interpreter of personal stories from the past and the city’s landscape. I love to imagine what originally happened inside old unmarked buildings, and what forces have shaped their design. I studied Chicago history, architectural history, and anything Chicago-related through my M.A. in the Humanities at the University of Chicago. My love for stories was enriched by my B.A. in Literature from the University of Michigan. I’ve written travel articles for publications like Rick Steves’ Italy best-selling travel guides, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and The Chicago Food Encyclopedia. I live in the Chicago neighborhood of West Avondale.
“You can TELL Amanda is hyper-passionate about doing the research and getting the story that nobody’s heard before.”
Shelby F

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