Text description provided by the architects. The KLEO Art Residences is an affordable housing project intentionally challenging stereotypes in housing typologies. It represents the first of its kind in Chicago construction where polycarbonate panels represent the majority of the exterior envelope. The building is one piece in a greater comprehensive strategy for reinvigorating the Washington Park community on Chicago’s South Side. The inspiration for the Art Residences project emerged from KLEO’s mission, Keep Loving Each Other, but most importantly by continuing the legacy of Kleo Y. Barrett, who was a victim of a domestic violence incident that took her life. Her name and legacy will continue to inspire the project and encourage families affected by domestic violence. JGMA used the opportunity to meet with a lot of the artists in the community to understand what living means to them. The common denominator in the study was to provide daylight, an element that is often overlooked within affordable housing complexes.
Therefore, instead of removing transparent materials like glass as commonly seen in affordable housing projects, the design team decided to give tenants something extraordinary, diffused and vibrant natural daylighting through the form of a polycarbonate façade. As a result, KLEO allowed the exploration of natural light to its fullest, from diffused to direct, the project emphasizes the needs and wants for natural light in affordable housing. In addition to creating comfortable living and working spaces, the artist’s conveyed to JGMA that the community lacked a sufficient location for them to sell their art and suggested that spaces be integrated within the design to cover this deficiency. It was also conveyed that spaces in which the artists could typically afford more often than not, lacked life through design. It was therefore requested that the newly designed KLEO Art Residences would offer an interiority that would bring pride and vibrancy to a space in which they would not normally see within their price range. KLEO Art Residences represents the first time in Chicago’s history where a project has a predominantly polycarbonate exterior. It includes 58 residential units.
The ground level contains retail space and community rooms serving as working studios for the artists to showcase, exhibit and sell their work to the community. The artists’ spaces that face Michigan Avenue were designed with individual roll-up doors that allow artists to share their work and their wares with the community. The colors of a community mural can be seen from all the windows on the east side of the building. Further reflecting neighborhood input, each floor has a distinct color palette drawn from the mural. Similarly, every floor has an art- enhanced common sitting area. While form and mass of the building are designed to fit seamlessly within the area, the translucent façade is designed to do the opposite. This provides optimal daylighting for residents/ artists on the inside, while in the evening hours, the building literally glows and becomes a beacon within the community, eliciting pride and hope for residents within Washington Park and well beyond.