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What do we do?


CITY OPEN Workshop is a hands-on bi-weekly meet up to share, learn and contribute to civic projects connecting city design and public policy. Our mission is to bring design to communities as a platform for citizen-driven change.


We are a collaborative group united in the belief that design should be open for all as a platform for change and participation in the civic realm. Our programming is open to the public and aims to build meaningful collaborations between community partners, engaged scholars, policymakers, and the urban planning and design community to foster civic discourse about Chicago’s built environment and spark curiosity and investment in its communities. Our open nature means our participants change from week to week and season to season but we believe everyone who supports us deserves to be recognized.

CITY OPEN cultivates a platform for long-term relationships and practices knowledge-sharing to support our community partners in advancing their own visions for policy and design innovation at all scales by providing our partners the resources, knowledge, data, and tools to effectuate transformative and aspirational visions for the future of their communities.

Our workshops have a simple & consistent agenda: (1) everyone introduces themselves, (2) co-organizers present a short background / general overview / announcements, and (3) project leaders or guest speakers present their project initiative(s); finally, (4) participants join a group to workshop current projects.

How does it work?


Why a platform to support civic projects? We are very inspired by emerging platforms organized by young professionals in Chicago and U.S. testing models for supporting public interest projects and civic initiatives through volunteering work: The One Plus (Architecture and Planning), Chi Hack Nights (Data and Technology). Equally important, they are also creating communities of civic-minded and passionate people supporting their communities. We are very interested in enabling a space where engaged scholars, policymakers, and the urban design and planning community can do the same.


Why civic projects? Design should be available as a tool and process of community and citizen engagement. Oftentimes, we expect design only from the private sector or more technologically savvy stakeholders. Just like advocacy and open data, design should be open to all as a platform for change and participation in the civic realm.


What to bring? Bring your (a) skills and tools— laptop or favorite markers highly recommended!, (b) research and/or reference materials that you think would be helpful for workshopping. Just want to brainstorm with us, that's also ok! Although we encourage the DOING or MAKING part of the workshop, everyone is welcome to participate at CITY OPEN Workshop.

Workshop Series + Guest speakers


We are very thankful for our amazing network of professionals and colleagues that have joined our workshop and shared their super interesting work! Thank you for inspiring us and letting us learn from your initiatives, experience and knowledge—look for our session notes in the Past Workshops menu:

Fall 2020

Workshop #1 (September 2): What is a Corridor Development Initiative?

Neighborhood Walk (September 5): Getting to Know Rogers Park

Workshop #2 (September 16): Community Design + Facilitation

Workshop #3 (September 30): Civic Engagement Prototyping

Workshop #4 (October 14): Active Listening in Community Planning Process

Workshop #5 (October 28): Input Analysis + Documentation

Workshop #6 (November 11): Future Thinking on Engagement Strategies

Spring 2020

Workshop #1 (February 20): Town Hall Simulation

Workshop #2 (March 3): Chi Hack Night Visit

Workshop #3 (April 29): Hosting a Digital Town Hall

Workshop #4 (May 13): Digital Tools for Engagement

Workshop #5 (May 27): 

Fall 2019

Workshop #1 (September 11): Coalition Building (Communities United + Equip for Equality + Access Living).

Workshop #2 (September 25): ADUs Design Guides (Booth Hansen)

Workshop #3 (October 9): Building Capital + Partnerships for ADUs (LA Mas + Real Estate Capital Investors)

Workshop #4 (October 23): How to Construct an ADU (Curtis Florence, Clayco).

Workshop #5 (November 6): Planning a (Good) Meeting (Gaylord Minett)

Workshop #6 (November 20): Equitable Development + ADUs (Kendra Freeman, MPC)

Spring 2019

Workshop #1 (February 20): Community Meetings + Engagement

Workshop #2 (February 27): Working with Data

Workshop #3 (March 13): Community Grassroots Pedagogy + Advocacy

Workshop #4 (March 27): People-Centered Design

Workshop #5 (April 10): Funding Community-Driven Projects

Workshop #6 (April 24): Community Feedback + Exchange

Workshop #7 (May 8): Placemaking + Grantwriting

Fall 2018

Workshop #1 (September 10): Civic Projects (Monica Chadha)

Workshop #2 (September 24): Solidarity Economy in Chicago (Troy Pieper)

Workshop #3 (October 8): Art, Design & Technology (Bo Rodda)

Workshop #4 (October 22): City Bureau (Andrea Hart & Harry Backlund)

Workshop #5 (November 5): Chicago Regal Theater (Jerald Gary)

Workshop #6 (November 19): City Tech Collaborative (Meera Raja)

Workshop #7 (December 3): MAPSCorps (Andres Alvear)

Spring 2018

Workshop #1 (January 22): Chicago Architect Magazine (Anjulie Rao)

Workshop #2 (February 5): The Pilsen Alliance (Byron Sigcho & Moises Moreno)

Workshop #3 (February 19): Teamwork Englewood (Morgan Malone)

Workshop #4 (March 5): The American Church in Paris / Jonathan Grant, Artist-in-Residence

Workshop #5 (March 19): Resident Association of Greater Englewood – R.A.G.E. (Asiaha Butler)

Workshop #6 (April 2): Chicago Union Station / Amtrak (Erik Cempel)

Workshop #7 (April 16): Future Firm / Office of the Public Architect (Ann Lui)

Fall 2017

Workshop #1 (September 19): Archeworks / Altgeld-Riverdale Healthy Food Project (Andrew Balster)

Workshop #2 (October 7): Chicago Architecture Foundation's No Small Plans (Gabrielle Lyon)

Workshop #3 (October 16): Territory Urban Design (Helen Slade)

Workshop #4 (October 30): Chinese Mutual Aid Association (Dennis Mondero)

Workshop #5 (November 6): Civic Technology Fellow, Microsoft Chicago / Code & Coffee (Soren Spicknall)

Workshop #6 (December 18): The Shift Chicago (Nicole Vazquez)

Spring 2017

Workshop #2 (March 11): Bronzeville Community Development Partnership (Paula Robinson)

Workshop #4 (April 6): Camp Douglas Restoration Foundation (Bernard Turner) 

Workshop #4 (April 6): City Farm/Resource Center (Ken Dunn)

Workshop #6 (May 1): Civc Data & Built Environment (Jeff Berg)

Workshop #7 (May 15): Drink Tank (Kate Garmey)

Workshop #7 (May 15): Innova EV (Roman Kuropas). 

Fall 2016

Pilot #1 (August 29)OTIS Fresh Farm (Steve Hughes)

Pilot #2 (September 12)Public Decibel (Jake Harper)

Pilot #3 (September 26)Courting Lots (Andres Lemus-Spont)

Pilot #4 (October 10)Rain Ready (Curtis Witek, Center for Neighborhood Technology)

Pilot #5 (October 24)Circus for Construction (Ann Lui, Future Firm)

Pilot #5 (October 24): We all Live Here (Rick Allapack)

Pilot #6: (November 7): Activate-Chi (Katherine Darnstadt)

Pilot #7: (November 21): Data & Communities (Steven VanceChicago Cityscape)

Pilot #7: (November 21): Urban Rivers (Zachary Damato)

City Open Team


Paola Aguirre (co-founder) is an architectural and urban designer, educator, and founder of Borderless, Chicago-based urban design and research studio focused on collaborative design agency through interdisciplinary projects.


Elle Ramel (co-founder) is an urban planner, urban strategist, and Director at GET Chicago – GET (Gender Equality in Tech) Cities is an initiative designed to accelerate the representation and leadership of women in tech.

Steven Vance is an urban planner, creator of Chicago Cityscape and programmer who is really into OpenStreetMap, open data, and tracking the built environment and transportation trends in Chicago. 

Anjulie Rao is a Chicago-based architecture/design journalist focused on livable built environments, public spaces, architecture criticism, and radical urbanism. 

Genevieve Wasser is an architectural designer preoccupied with centering environmental equity and social + racial justice in the built environment.


Annie Ball is an architectural designer and educator, who finds that design should spark transformative agency within communities, urban environments, and ecological networks.

Morgan Malone is a policy analyst, operations fanatic, and good government aficionado. 

Gabrielle Lyon is a life-long organization builder and social entrepreneur with a deep passion for education, and founder and principal of Lyon Strategies LLC. She's a social impact designer by trade and optimistic convener.


Lindsey Conklin is an urban anthropologist and researcher who works at the intersection of social impact design, the built environment, and community development.

Troy Pieper strategizes content, specializes in communications, and writes on design.  

Charlie Barlow is a public policy researcher and strategist, and Vice-President for Strategic Initiatives and Programs at Associated Colleges of the Midwest.

Greg Morse is an architectural designer concerned with transferring the power of design from the few to the many. 


Kevin Dunphy is an architect, urban planner and strategist at CannonDesign where he focuses on master planning and community engagement in Chicago, the US and abroad.

Emma Cuciurean-Zapan is an architect, urban planner and strategist at CannonDesign where she also actively participates in Open Hand Studio, an incubator for public interest design projects within the firm. 

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