THINK TANK 2021 | HOMECOMING: Transportation & Municipal Design

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How can designers and urbanists reconnect disconnected communities to restore vital infrastructure? What can we do to combat disinvestment?

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Transportation & Municipal Design

Resilience Through Reinvestment

This symposium will focus on ways architects and designers can re-center residents and their communities when designing multimodal developments and transportation networks.

First, at 2:00 CDT, we'll hear from the American Public Transportation Association's Jeff Nelson, who will share his experiences connecting the Quad Cities to vital public transportation infrastructure and multi-modal developments.

Then at 3:15 CDT, following a Q&A and brief intermission, we'll hear from a panel of developers, designers, and urban planners who will discuss how systemic disinvestment has negatively impacted development, and what can be done to facilitate investment and growth in midwestern infrastructure.

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Speaker & Panelists


Jeff Nelson

Chair @ American Public Transportation Association

CEO & Managing Director @ MetroLINK


Alexandra Elias

President & CEO @ Renew Moline

Dave Herrell

President & CEO @ Visit Quad Cities

Kerl LaJeune

Deputy Director of Planning & Design @ Chicago Public Building Commission

Joseph P. Schwieterman

Director & Professor of Public Service @ The Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development at DePaul University

Paul Rumler

President & CEO @ Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce

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About Think Tank

The basis for Think Tank 2021 comes to us from the theme of the 2021 Chicago Architecture Biennial, The Available City, curated by David Brown. The Available City began as an inventory of vacant, city-owned lots across Chicago-- currently numbering more than 13,000 sites concentrated on the city’s South and West sides. Over more than a decade of work, Brown developed his research into an ongoing urban design proposal that connects community residents, architects, and designers to work together to create spaces reflecting the needs of local neighborhoods.

The Available City represents a summation of the design process, which our Think Tank team recognized as an appropriate launching-point for the lenses of this year’s topic: disinvestment, disruption, and design. Disinvestment is the recognition of a problem; whether it is an inequality in the status quo, an active intent to harm or disenfranchise, or simply a broken context that requires a fix. Disinvestment represents the problem, whatever it may be. Disruption occurs when a new element is introduced to the context: in this case, the designer. The process of disrupting the status quo is an acknowledgment of a problem; someone has arrived on the scene and has determined that things cannot continue unchecked. In many cases, disruption can be as simple as a conversation that elevates an aggrieved party to the level of equal. Design is the physical manifestation of a solution; after disruption occurs, the new element (the designer) joins with the existing elements (the users) to create a remedy (the design). The design is an attempt to repair, restore, or recreate something that was once disinvested in by others.

Our format for 2021 is simple: from 2:00 - 5:00 PM CST on four autumn Fridays three weeks apart, a different Legat studio will be playing host to a keynote speaker, followed by an intermission and a panel discussion with 3-5 experts (including the keynote speaker).

With Think Tank 2021, our goal is to invite experts in their fields who understand the current market and can highlight our blind spots as designers. We seek to understand where our users feel their needs have been unmet, and what solutions we can provide to them to mend these overlooked gaps. Whether it’s in the growing field of wellness-based design or in an established segment like playful and early childhood learning, we want to understand where the people who live and work in our buildings feel left behind.

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