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Building Community, Box by Box

By Andrew Connor

August 11, 2019

Boxville rendering
Part of ID’s One-mile Project

Partnering with Urban Juncture, ID students designed a new seating and display system for a community space in Bronzeville.

After IIT Institute of Design moved to Illinois Tech’s Mies Campus in late 2018 from its former downtown location, Studio Professor Martin Thaler wanted his product design class to create something for a client within one mile of ID’s new home. That led Thaler and his students to Urban Juncture’s Boxville, a community space built from upcycled shipping containers that is home to several small businesses next to the CTA Green Line stop at 51st Street, the southernmost edge of Bronzeville.

In spring 2019, Thaler’s class built a system of modular, box-shaped seats for Boxville that could function as seating for patrons, signage for promotions, and makeshift stages for performances. In addition, the boxes connect area residents to Boxville. Used as signal posts throughout the neighborhood, the boxes inform individuals about Boxville while creating a recognizable identity; as stages and chairs, they provide a parklike setting for patrons.

In summer 2019, the boxes were implemented at Boxville alongside a community design lab that workshopped potential improvements for vendors and patrons of the community space.