Cicero is a suburb of Illinois on the west side of the downtown area, but sited before well-known suburb areas like Oak Park. Known as an “industrial town”, the area has been down on its luck as businesses and factories have closed down or moved away, leaving many of the residents without work. Foreclosures on homes and businesses have compounded the problem further, resulting in a rundown and a largely immigrant population faced with unemployment, poverty, and environmental degradation. It’s a sad state for Cicero, and the suburb faces a bleak future like many other former industrial areas around the country. To remedy the issue, Jeanne Gang was asked to come up with a vision for the area to transform it into a vibrant and sustainable town.
Making use of the existing infrastructure, Gang came up with “The Garden in the Machine”, which demonstrates how the remains of Cicero’s industry, its lands, building materials, and existing rail infrastructure could be the foundation for a new and better town. The new vision calls for an influx of vegetation, trees and gardens to improve the green space of the area. Housing would largely transition to new live/work units and would require a change in zoning and regulations to allow a different form of ownership — one that allows citizens to purchase and sell shares corresponding to the live/work units they occupy. A variety of flexible housing options would be occupied by families of all sizes and a new economy would be created through residents who live and work in the same area. Rather than raze the entire area and start again, Gang sees that the existing infrastructure can be utilized to build a better, more sustainable city.
Images ©Studio Gang Architects