Originally from Oak Park, children have a passion for architecture with mobile workshops



Maya Bird-Murphy likes to say that she “acquired architecture”.

Bird-Murphy, 29, was born and raised in Oak Park, where she regularly saw tourists invade her hometown to visit Frank Lloyd Wright’s studio and the neighboring homes he designed. She played with Froebel building blocks, attended architecture camps, and heard her community speak frequently and reverently about architecture, which motivated her to pursue a career in the field.

She attended Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, and thought she was in the right place. The architecture program was solid and Bird-Murphy enjoyed the content, but she began to notice the lack of diversity. The majority of his peers were white, as were the architects they studied. After graduating, Bird-Murphy returned to Chicago excited about the change, but saw the same lack of diversity in the professional world. This unease led her to consider what it means to be an architect and the role it plays in communities.

“I kept thinking about all these thoughts and experiences from years of growing at Oak Park, the university and the profession, and it all came together as if I am going to create a nonprofit organization that s ‘really tackles the problem of diversity in design,’ said Bird-Murphy.

Executing his vision proved difficult. As she talked about it with others, many were confused as to what she was trying to do and how she would achieve it. She gave up on the idea until she returned to graduate school to complete her master’s degree and gain support from her advisor. Bird-Murphy implemented his vision in his thesis.

“I was trying to create this new thing that really doesn’t exist anywhere. And there are a few similar examples, but the biggest challenge has been figuring out how to reinvent architecture and design and what practice is going to be for me, ”Bird-Murphy said.

He quickly laid the groundwork for what would become Chicago Mobile Makers. Bird-Murphy put his thesis to the test and began running workshops in elementary school classrooms and laid the groundwork for how to involve students in the world of architecture.

As her programming grew and expanded she began to receive inquiries from other schools and donations started to follow. As things were taking off, the pandemic struck. Everything that was planned for the year has been stopped.

Fortunately, they had already started planning to expand their reach with a mobile workshop, and by mid-2020 Mobile Makers had finished converting an old USPS truck into a design studio that could be parked at events with all the tools and tools. building materials needed for children to explore architecture and design.

Maya Bird-Murphy sits in the newly acquired space for Chicago Mobile Makers at the Kimball Arts Center in Logan Square earlier this month.
Anthony Vazquez / Sun-Times

Chicago Mobile Makers’ most recent initiative, Youth Design Leadership for Community Safety, invites students in the Garfield Park area to participate in brainstorming and building a structure that will be part of the upcoming ice rink. Garfield Park.

“So they’re using design to create this fun and safe place in a location that has been touched by crime, and the kids in the program are going to design a great 3D artwork for this rink,” Bird-Murphy mentioned. “He’s going to stay there all the time, they’ll be able to see him when they drive by. It will give them some ownership and pride, and show them that design can really make a difference in communities.

The students decided on their design – the word RECLAIM will be found nearly 8 feet tall in Madison and Pulaski when the rink opens in 2022.

This is the main effort behind the programming of Chicago Mobile Makers and Bird-Murphy, to lay the foundation for children to see how architecture and design affect the community and that they have a place in that process.

Today, the company finds its place with a permanent space that will provide future students with a place to meet, learn and foster community engagement. The space is slated to open next year at the Kimball Arts Center in Logan Square.

“I hope this space is seen as a safe space that the kids can come to even if they’re not doing a workshop, hoping that, you know, we’re going to work with community organizations to determine what the real needs are. community and we may be able to help fill some of these gaps. And so we hope to be just a positive asset in this community and in the lives of young people.


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