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Panama City, Panama


SKETCH is an energetic and multidisciplinary design studio operating in the fields of architecture and design. Its name refers to the rough drawing that closes in on the core ideas of a project. This idea, generated after understanding all the factors of an assignment, becomes their guiding concept. Within the design realm, they are recognized by an honest, uncomplicated vision of design theory, treating space as a dynamic, multipurpose, and flexible entity that enhances the landscape’s virtues and the local culture. The project’s performance drives them through the user’s experience. They are true believers that design should be intelligent and fun. The studio’s team is led by Johann Wolfschoon, who founded the practice in Panama City, Panama in 2006. Since then, it has become a collaborative think-tank composed of designers with extensive cultural and educational backgrounds, allowing them to reevaluate craft and often forgotten solutions with great value and reaffirm or rebuke conventions with conviction through a profound understanding of all the related aspects. Their architects, designers, collaborators, and makers are skillful in a wide range of fields, from research to art history to building technologies.

CAB 5 Contribution

Project Overview

The distance between two points is not always a straight line

Social responsibility and community investment are core tenets for SKETCH, an architectural firm based in Panama City. SKETCH has a long history of supporting the design needs of Enlaces, a program that works with children and adolescents living in poverty-stricken neighborhoods next to the gentrified paradise that is Casco Antiguo by providing them with a safe environment to learn to respect others, their bodies, and their ideas through contemporary dance,  academic support, and therapeutic resources as their principal tools. Enlaces is not an architectural project, but nonetheless aims to counteract the adverse effects of Panamanian architecture and urban planning. Enlaces build cities by repairing the social fabric, which SKETCH contributes to by selecting and remodeling its dance studios, workshops and study rooms.

Panama has one of the most thriving economies in Latin America and one of the most unequal. It is home to the Panama Canal, an international banking center, dozens of multinationals, and countless shell corporations. Still, twenty-five percent of its population lives in poverty; many experience multidimensional poverty and are excluded from economic and social development processes.

For CAB 5, SKETCH presents a two-channel video where Enlaces dancers explore their stories of personal growth in their urban and social environments: the neighborhoods of Santa Ana, Barraza, and El Chorrillo. The video highlights Panama’s extreme inequality and how its urban design, or lack thereof, manifests and perpetuates this inequality: a city where glass skyscrapers can exist right next to communities forever submerged in cycles of poverty.

Project Team: Carlos Chen, Giuliana Cipponeri, Analida Galindo, Juan Rivera, Johann Wolfschoon

Images: Francisco Barsallo, Justo Nieto Edition: Frank Zamora, Paulina Hernandez Sound Design: Iñaki Iriberri, Louis Navas

Performers: José Garrido, Luis Chamorro, Claudia Hamilton, Joseph Petit, Maikelys Earle, Elías Estrada

Special thanks to: Floating Museum, Fundación Espacio Creativo (FEC), Darién Montañez, Annie Pereda, Lulu Rivera Pereda, Jonathan Harker, Carlos Smith

With the support of the Chicago Architecture Biennial (CAB 5), 2023


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Chicago Cultural Center


78 East Washington Street, Chicago, IL


The Loop


The Chicago Cultural Center serves as one of the main exhibition venue sites for CAB 5, featuring projects from more than 80 participants from ten countries. 

Opened in 1897, the Chicago Cultural Center is a Chicago landmark building operated by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events and is home to free cultural exhibits and programming year-round.

Chicago Cultural Center
Chicago Cultural Center
The City is the Site