Structure Is Space '63-66
a mosaic installation at the historic Hilliard Apartments
by Olivia Gude and community members
Download a presentation
on the organizing and making process as well as details of the finished installation of Structure Is Space '63-66 by Olivia Gude.
The Structure Is Space '63–66 public art project is the result of a yearlong residency by Olivia Gude at the historic Hilliard Apartments complex—a Chicago public housing site that has been redeveloped as mixed-income housing for seniors and families. The residency explored intersections of public art, collaborative art practices, oral history, community organizing techniques, and urban design. The resulting public art piece is an installation of seating forms inset with mosaics
The project was a collaboration of the Holsten Real Estate Development Corporation and Chicago Public Art Group. Support for the project was provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Great Cities Institute of the University of Illinois at Chicago, the Field Foundation of Illinois, and the Illinois Arts Council, a state arts agency.
Initial Art Workshops
Working with a team of elders, youths, and adults, the artist, Olivia Gude, facilitated an arts-based investigation of the psychological impact of space on the formation and maintenance of community. The workshop produced an exhibition of collaborative research into the creation of social, discursive, and actual spaces. The exhibition was on display in the Hilliard Senior Center from August through December 2007. In the Space and Place project presented at the exhibition, seniors represented significant places in their lives, often recalling childhood homes or places in which they raised their children. In the Warnings Project, children and adults used silhouettes as the medium through which to re-create frequently repeated admonitions that shape the psychological spaces that delimit the possibilities in their lives.
Children participating in the project studied aerial views of the housing site and surrounding neighborhoods, identifying places with which they were familiar, tracing their routes from place to place. Using site plans and floor plans of the Hilliard complex, they located their own homes and marked maps of their meanderings. They used the site plan to document sightings of rabbits in the now idyllic landscape surrounding the housing project. As they toured the grounds with their maps, the children engaged and educated seniors, explaining their various mapping projects.
The design and intricate mosaic work for the project was produced by the artist in collaboration with assistants, teen workers, and adult volunteers. Chief mosaic assistants were Julia Sowles, Kelley Leung, Joanne Li, Louis Waller, and Ivan Ocampo.
Participants studied the design principles of Bertrand Goldberg, the Bauhaus-trained architect who designed the site. They noted the similarities of his belief in the potential of quality modernist architecture to transform people’s lives with the widespread belief in social possibility of that era.
The design of the mosaic installation pairs historic images of dramatic social changes in the sixties, such as the civil rights movement and the institution of Medicare, with evocative phrases from Goldberg’s writing, such as “we can build whatever we think…” The goal of the artwork is to sensitively layer other meaning making onto the original site. The work comments on the legacy of modernist planning, considering how in postmodern times modernist visions can be reconsidered while still embracing the spirit of hope and belief in the possibility of structuring new spaces in which human potential can unfold.