The Structure Is Space: 63–66 public art project is the result of a yearlong residency by artist 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 project was a collaboration of the Holsten Real Estate Development Corporation, Chicago Public Art Group, and the Great Cities Institute of the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Working with elders, youths, and adults, Gude facilitated an arts-based investigation of the psychological impact of space on the formation and maintenance of community. The resulting public art piece is an installation of seating forms inset with mosaics placed in the Hilliard amphitheater. From the nearby high-rise buildings, the forms are seen as brightly colored dots on the grayish ground. Close up, what initially appears to be plain fields of color, contain intricate images created in glass tile by community participants.
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 and Head Start, 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.