Revisiting Learning from North Lawndale

This year’s Chicago Architecture Biennial traces its roots back to a groundbreaking 2006 Chicago Architecture Foundation exhibition, Learning from North Lawndale: Past, Present and Future. Join us as we revisit the making of the exhibit and explore how much we can still learn from the richness of the North Lawndale experience.

The original CAF exhibition examined the movements that dominated past eras: the growth of local industry, the religious and residential life, the thriving entertainment and the people who made up the fabric of this neighborhood. Learning from North Lawndale: Past, Present and Future Curator and 2021 Chicago Architecture Biennial Artistic Director David Brown; architectural commentator and former CAF curator Ned Cramer; and North Lawndale resident and President and co-founder of the North Lawndale Historical Society Blanche Killingsworth bring their unique perspectives to the conversation.

This program is presented in partnership with Chicago Architecture Center.


The Chicago Architecture Center is the leading organization devoted to celebrating and promoting Chicago as a center of architectural innovation. As Chicago’s forum for the exchange of ideas on urban design, the CAC inspires people to participate in the building of vibrant communities and to demand the highest standard in urban design. The CAC awakens young people to achieve their potential through the discovery of architecture, engineering and design.

David Brown is the Artistic Director of the 2021 Chicago Architecture Biennial. Brown is a Chicago-based designer, researcher, and educator. His work investigates non-hierarchical, flexible, and variable approaches to urban design within The Available City, an ongoing speculation on the potential of Chicago’s city-owned vacant land. Brown’s work has been exhibited in the Venice Architecture Biennale (2012), the Chicago Cultural Center’s Expo 72 (2013), the Chicago Architecture Biennial (2015), and received a grant from the Graham Foundation in 2011. Writing includes the book Noise Orders: Jazz, Improvisation, and Architecture (University of Minnesota Press, 2006) and essays “Curious Mixtures” in Center 18: Music in Architecture—Architecture in Music (Center for American Architecture and Design, 2014, Michael Benedikt, ed.) and “Lots Will Vary in The Available City” in The Oxford Handbook of Critical Improvisation Studies (Oxford University Press, 2016, George Lewis and Ben Piekut, eds.). Brown has lectured on his work at Columbia University’s Center for Jazz Studies and the Politecno di Milano and has taught at Florida A&M University and Rice University. He is currently a Professor in the School of Architecture at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). 

Ned Cramer is an architecture and design communication advisor based in Washington, D.C. He was the founding editor-in-chief of Architect, the official publication of The American Institute of Architects, serving from 2006 to 2020. Prior to joining the magazine, Cramer was the first full-time curator of the Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF). In 2012, he co-curated “Spontaneous Interventions” in the U.S. Pavilion at the 2012 Venice Architecture Biennale.

Cramer is a frequent speaker and writer on architecture, design, urbanism, and related subjects and is an active voice in the design community, having served on the U.S. General Services Administration’s Design Excellence National Peer Registry, the selection committee for the National Building Museum’s Scully Prize, the Cranbrook Academy of Art National Advisory Committee, and countless competition juries and graduate student reviews.

Blanche Killingsworth is the President and co-founder of the North Lawndale Historical Society, an organization whose mission is to research, educate and archive the history of Lawndale. She is a long time North Lawndale resident and community activist. She has worked with many organizations and community members to preserve Lawndale History. She is also a Diversity Scholar of the National Trust.


Chicago Architecture Biennial's InDialogue Series is supported by Hindman Auctions.

Hindman, an internationally recognized fine art auction house, offers its clients an unyielding focus on service and holistic solutions to connect to the global art market. Hindman conducts over 100 auctions annually in 52 collecting categories such as fine art, jewelry, modern design, books and manuscripts, furniture, native American art, decorative arts, antiquities, couture, and Asian works of art. Founded and headquartered in Chicago, Hindman is now represented in 13 cities in the United States and operates five salerooms, more than any other auction house in the country.

Photo Credit: Sloan, Percy H. (Percy Haydn), 1867-, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons