Founded in 2014, the Chicago Architecture Biennial (CAB) takes place every two years and is the largest contemporary architecture and design exhibition in North America. Usually, the Biennial will create mini-exhibitions related to art, design and architecture in well-known and well-traveled venues throughout Chicago, such as the Chicago Cultural Center (the biennial headquarters), Navy Pier, the Garfield Park Conservatory and the Historic Water Tower.

With this year’s theme of “The Available City,” the CAB did something a little different for 2021. Beginning on Sept. 17, the CAB activated several city-owned vacant lots on the South and West sides with site-specific mini-exhibitions featuring architectural structures, parks, workshops, performances and art pieces that reflect the history and culture of the neighborhood and its residents. 

The CAB’s artistic director for this year is architect and University of Illinois Chicago professor David Brown. He came up with the theme of “The Available City” by asking what potential lies in the more than 10,000 city-owned vacant lots — which are concentrated mostly in the city’s South and West sides. 

Instead of representing the blight and neglect of these predominantly Black spaces, which is often the only narrative seen in mainstream media, what if those lots could reflect an opportunity for people to connect with one another? What if these vacant lots could be transformed into places that allow us to think about these available spaces in a new and radical way?

“The Available City” sites on the West Side in North Lawndale are particularly fascinating: a “soil lab” structure made in conjunction with architects based in Copenhagen and Berlin; a bike shop and community garden made from components of a 40-foot shipping container; a permapark forest fashioned into an outdoor living room space; and a block party-themed basketball court designed to encourage interaction and play.

The best part is that every installation was done in collaboration with neighborhood residents, community schools and organizations, building on community programming already being done.

This photo essay focuses specifically on the North Lawndale portion of this year’s biennial, “The Available City.” Each CAB installation incorporated work already being done by organizations such as the Urban Garden Project at Young Men’s Educational Network (YMEN), and programming aimed at creating juvenile justice support at Westside Association for Community Action (WACA). These organizations have been creating community programming and support for 25 and 50 years, respectively.

“The Available City” started on Sept. 17 and runs through Dec. 18. However, some installations, such as the CCA Permapark on Pulaski Road, will be a permanent fixture in its neighborhood. 

The installations are free and open to the public every day from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. A self-guided tour guide is available here and information about programming and workshops can be found at

Check out the photo essay below for more details on “The Available City” installations in North Lawndale.


1310 S. Pulaski Road

Open: 11am–4pm / Daily


1241 S. Pulaski Rd

Open: 12–5pm / Daily and Bike Box open Mondays + Thursdays

CCA Academy PermaPark

1320-1332 S. Pulaski Road

Open: 11am-4pm / Daily


1921 S. Drake Avenue

Open: 11am–4pm / Daily

is a freelance writer for The TRiiBE.