The El Paseo Community Garden in Pilsen (944 W. 21st Street, Chicago IL 60608) hosts The Garden Table by Studio Ossidiana – Alessandra Covini (Rotterdam, The Netherlands) and Giovanni Bellotti (Venice Italy), a Chicago Architecture Biennial project. Organized in coordination by El Paseo Community Garden and NeighborSpace, a community hub for urban farming and outdoor activities.
About The Garden Table
Part kitchen, part game, part stage, the Garden Table is a modular cast object designed to be touched, played upon, and cultivated. It is designed as a permanent installation, made to withstand weather and use, and potentially, to grow over time. The modularity of the blocks creates spaces for sitting, games to be played, food to be shared, and urban wildlife to use.
The project is emblematic of the studio’s research and intentions, combining a focus on craft and materiality with the belief in the possibility of public space to allow new urban rituals, actions, and ways of being together to emerge. With The Garden Table, the ambition is to imagine and materialize a fragment of a collective city where domestic activities can become civic rituals, and the range of activities imaginable within the public realm can expand towards new forms of engagement with the city.
During the Biennial, the Table will be integrated into El Paseo’s ongoing programming and creation of communal space in Pilsen. Over time, daily usage and activity surrounding the permanent installation will be spontaneous–neighbors walking by who want to sit and look at the surrounding gardens, old friends playing a game of chess, or a group who wants to have a picnic.
Pilsen is a neighborhood on Chicago’s West Side that is home to a large Latino community, with vibrant cultural institutions, businesses, and community associations. Pilsen is known for a large collection of murals that adorn homes and buildings throughout the neighborhood and the National Museum of Mexican Art is located in the neighborhood. As of 2010, 35,769 people reside in Pilsen, and the median household income is $35,103.
About the El Paseo Community Garden
El Paseo Community Garden is a volunteer-run, 1.1 acre garden and green space that has been serving Pilsen since 2009.
El Paseo’s mission is to strengthen environmental stewardship and civic engagement while protecting equitable green space on behalf of the community. Their governance and leadership structure allows for anyone with a desire to make an impact to do so, growing not only healthy food, but community leaders as well. The outdoor space has become a community center and partner for anyone willing to share accessible community resources.
Since 2009, El Paseo Community Garden (founded as Growing Station) has been fostering community and wellness for Pilsen residents through stewardship, conservation, placemaking, partnerships, programming, and community gardening. The garden is one of many NeighborSpace protected and community managed spaces in Chicago, with over an acre of equitable greenspace maintained by volunteers and donations. The garden is a converted brownfield site and sits along a path with a native prairie and permaculture food forest on one side and raised beds and an apiary on the other. The garden plans to add a dog run, nature play area for kids, community stage, fitness area, and several more gathering spaces and plants to their half acre expansion within the next few years as funding is secured.
The garden also hosts public Stewardship Days every Sunday from 10 am to 2 pm for anyone to get involved and volunteer.
NeighborSpace is a nonprofit urban land trust in Chicago that preserves and sustains gardens on behalf of dedicated community groups. They shoulder the responsibilities of property ownership—such as providing basic insurance, access to water, and links to support networks—so that community groups can focus on gardening.
All site-based Biennial projects are best visited during active programming, but can be seen, at least in part, at other points. Projects are installed outdoors and open to the public from 11-4 pm throughout the week and during El Paseo programs.
Programming scheduled for:
Opening weekend September 17 – 19
October 9 + 10; Annual Harvest Festival October 9; Site will also be activated by Outpost Office
October 30 + 31
About the Chicago Architecture Biennial (CAB)
The fourth edition of the Chicago Architecture Biennial (CAB) will open to the public on September 17, responding to an urban design framework that proposes connecting community residents, architects, and designers to develop and create spaces that reflect the needs of communities and neighborhoods. Over 80 contributors from more than 18 countries will respond to this framework through site-specific architectural projects, exhibitions, and programs across eight neighborhoods in Chicago and in the digital sphere.
Curated by the Biennial’s 2021 Artistic Director—designer, researcher, and educator David Brown—The Available City will present projects and programs that ask and respond to the question of who gets to participate in the design of the city by exploring new perspectives and approaches to policies. The Available City illuminates the potential for immediate new possibilities, highlights improvisational organizers of the city, and underscores the exponential impact of small elements in aggregate.
The Biennial is free and open to the public beginning on Friday, September 17. It will be on view at sites and in locations throughout the city, activated through in-person and online programming through December 18, 2021