We are in the final stretch! During our final week, the students really got to work on transforming the landscape of the site into their dream design. The students also finalized their PowerPoint slides for their big presentation on Friday. 

On Monday and Tuesday,  the students installed the benches and, with help from our carpenter allies, erected the column posts for the canopy. We also received our shipment of plants for our planters and bench designs. 

A couple of our students were preparing the ground for the bench installation. 

A student securing the post into the ground using an impact driver. 

A group of students working on the corner planter installation. 

On Wednesday and Thursday, the students and our carpenter allies continued to work on the canopy construction and completed the planter installation for the bench. The students also broke off into groups with some groups working on laying gravel and mulch while the others worked on a new planter box next to the bench. 

Some of the students and professionals are designing a new planter intervention on site. 

Some of the students and their T.A. are laying gravel and mulch in the back. 

A couple of students are constructing the moveable seating blocks they designed earlier in the program. 



The students also helped the carpenters’ choose the design for their polycarbonate roofing. 

The students took a socially distant group photo for all of their family and viewers to witness.

We are almost to the finish line ! This week the  students and TA’s met at Andres’ workshop to start construction on the bench that will be near the canopy. Students also continued building upon design of flower Bed and budgeting spreadsheet, while getting a visual of how AutoCAD works.

During our digital session, the students continued their AutoCad drawings of the construction details of the canopy. Afterwards, the students had a lecture on how to create a photoshop collage for their presentation boards. The students also got started on what they wanted to show on their presentation boards and how were they going to present it. 

During our field trip, Students get to see two of Turner’s construction sites while gaining knowledge of how the construction parts work on the site. As we want to stay in regulation, we split the group two groups to keep social distancing. While some students were on the construction site, other students were visiting the LowLine underneath the CTA Brown line. It carried similarities of what the students are doing for Blackstone.



The bench crew were able to complete both halves of the bench and, with some finishing touches and will be ready for assembly next week. The virtual group worked on presentation boards and listened to a lecture by Julia Mosqueda of the firm Landon Bone Baker. 



Week 5 is a wrap! We continued our design process by breaking out into more specific, detailed groups while finalizing our design, and scheduling out the week of field trips and updates on the project.


We split off into groups while some finished prior group discussions of construction strategies and joined other groups who had different areas of the project to focus on. We had volunteers Jeffie, Laurel and Nicki give students some professional advice how on to move forward through the different phases of the project.

Carolyn, who is one of our volunteers, showed two projects that she completed in grad school. Her projects had a great similarity to the current project, both including a canopy and other additions to an outdoor space. Students continued to work on designing and finalizing it into CAD drawings.



The rest of the week consisted of a hybrid of field trips and zoom/work days. Students on the field trip, went to Chicago Metal Rolled Products and received a tour of the shop, while getting a presentation of how/where they operate. They are one the world’s biggest metal companies and one of their popular projects are the Jay Pritzker Pavilion and Chicago’s Iconic Rock N Roll McDonald’s metal arches. Students also took a trip to Andres’ shop, where they were given lessons on tools, understanding different screw/nail types and getting familiar with working in a shop environment. Students got to build a sculpture in small groups out of cedar wood to get used to the construction process, as the construction and installation phases are in the next 2 weeks.


Students had another hybrid day,  so some students worked at Blackstone’s court space while students who were on zoom, continued to work on the design to refine details. Students on site focused on clearing the out site and preparing for concrete pour. While students continue to work on the design, we had guest Sayiddah McCree, who took an alternate journey of architecture focusing on building an inclusive environment for the black community. We also had Black stone join while ACE mentors assist with their design process for redesigning their staircase for the bike shop.



We have hit the half-way mark and it gets more exciting everyday! Week 4 started with a quick debrief of Friday’s presentation and the feedback received from Blackstone. Then we regrouped into specialized groups (such as canopy details, seating, and green space) to create a new Jamboard with new inspirational images, ideas, and sketches. 

Guest speaker, Sheena Enriquez, presented her work on restoring historically significant public park buildings in New York. 


To practice our Photoshop skills this week, students were put into small groups with at least one person experienced in Photoshop and one person who did not know how to use it. The activity asked students to create a Photoshop collage of the site with the general ideas we have had as a team, to start to visualize the entire project. 


The rest of the week was filled with intense working sessions in our specialized group to make sure every aspect of the project was covered. This includes scheduling, plant sourcing, material sourcing, bike repair and workspace, budgeting, seating, and canopy details. Each group had their own discussions then presented to the entire class to get feedback. This method has made the design process much faster and more inclusive!


The week ended with an exciting presentation and walk-through of a project by DAAM Architects. Elyse Agnello walked us through the ongoing project, Guild Row, an event/maker space for architects and designers. Students were interested in asking about her path to architecture and advice about college. Laurel Chavez was able to give Blackstone students a SketchUp tutorial while the ACE students continued working on designing and material sourcing. Friday ended with a feedback session by Blackstone.





Week 3 is a wrap! This week we spent more time focusing on conceptual designs in small groups about specific elements of the project. We started thinking about the canopy, then moved on to think about signage and landscape ideas. Once we spent some time in our small groups, we came back together as a class to present and discuss what we came up with. 






The following day was about refining design ideas and using a SketchUp model of the courtyard and surrounding area to create what they envision the site may look like. We had a presentation from Mike and Nikki from Turner construction later that morning, where they discussed the importance of budgets within a project. There was an activity where students were asked to create a list of all of the elements needed to create a birdhouse, using the information given from the presentation. 

The next two days were work days to prepare for Friday’s presentation of the refined designs. Students worked on jamboards and got into details of what kind of materials will be used in the canopy, what signage options are best suited for the site’s location, and started to create 3D models, site plans, and physical models. On Thursday, Louis Fernandez, a practicing architect in New York, gave us a project walkthrough of one of the projects he is currently working on. He gave us an overview of the design process within the built environment, and showed us the various techniques used to construct large projects. 


Friday was very engaging and fun, the students were able to present their group’s final design ideas to Blackstone staff and students. There were lots of questions asked by Blackstone, and follow up questions were asked by the ACE students. One person from each group talked about group dynamics and the process of collaboration in order to come up with solutions to the site’s issues. Overall, the presentations went really well and we got lots of great feedback to reflect on as we move forward to solidifying a cohesive final design within the next week. 

We made it through our second week of ACE DESIGN BUILD! This week started with a T-shirt design activity, where students sketched designs for a t-shirt that would represent the collaboration between ACE and Blackstone Bikes. We practiced speed ideating and integrating different ideas into one cohesive drawing. Students also used Google Jamboard to collaborate on a group drawing, while learning how to come to a collective decision. The chosen scene was from the movie “Finding Nemo”. 

On Wednesday, founder of Latent Design, Katherine Darnstadt, presented a collection of projects with a scope similar to this Blackstone Bikes project. She also gave students great advice on the process of becoming an architect and working with a group. Mike Madsen from Turner Construction gave a presentation with a focus on the importance of scheduling. 

Some students learned SketchUp for the first time, while others brushed up on their 3D modeling skills by building their bedrooms.

We went on a sketch-walk around the downtown area, where we were able to observe and analyze different environments and systems of the neighborhood. Students who attended class virtually learned about exploded axonometric drawings to represent the network of systems in their respective neighborhoods. 

We concluded the week by meeting with Blackstone to receive feedback on group design choices and were able to ask questions about the needs of the client. 

This year we are doing our best to make the ACE Mentor Chicago Design Build Workshop just as engaging, ambitious, and fun as past years. We have a great group of students, TA’s, and volunteers, as well as a great client in Blackstone Bicycle Works.

This week’s field trip took us on a site visit to Blackstone Bikes in Woodlawn, just south of the UChicago campus. We took turns taking notes and measurements at the site and going on sketch walks in the area.

Most of our work was remotely and we did several activities to practice collaborating remotely.

Our first guest speaker this week was Paola Aguirre of Borderless Studio. Paola spoke to us about her work designing with (not for) communities by being thoughtful about the questions we ask, listening carefully to needs and asks of local stakeholders, and above all, including community members in the design process.

This week culminated in a virtual design charrette with students and staff at Blackstone Bikes. During this charrette we learned more about our project: building an outdoor shelter which would serve as a space for outdoor classes and hangouts as well as a form of way finding to bring people into the bike shop. In small groups, ACE students and professionals, TA’s, and Blackstone youth and staff collaborated to design proposals for how that space could be used.

The 4 hours went by quickly and we came away with a better understanding of the design possibilities in store and a lot of great ideas to develop in the weeks ahead.



ace DB collage for web

ACE is seeking two students who have an interest in design, construction, and community development to assist with this year’s summer program. The collegiate assistants will fully participate in the summer Workshop as both a team member and teaching assistant. It is expected that the selected candidates will help motivate and lead the students through the design-build process, while also assisting the instructors with organizational or administrative tasks.

To be eligible for this position, the candidate must have completed at least 1 year of the ACE Mentor Program and be currently enrolled in a collegiate architecture, construction, or engineering program. There are no further restrictions. Architectural or structural design ability, construction experience, familiarity with 2D and 3D drafting programs, and prior leadership experience are highly desirable; however, it is not expected that one candidate possess an expertise in all areas.

Teaching Assistantships Application Instructions

Interested students should email resume and cover letter with the subject ACE DESIGN BUILD DIRECTORS to acementorchicago@gmail.com by Monday, May 13, 2019. The cover letter, in addition to highlighting past experience, should include current contact information and provide the year/number of the candidate’s former ACE team. In appreciation for your participation, ACE will provide a one-time college scholarship paid directly to you, for college related expenses such as books and supplies. Award amount will be $2,500.


Week 6 (July 23- 27)


The DBW Team split up into groups that worked on the sketchup model, the structural model of the leaf with the columns on AutoCAD, the information display panels, and the bench which has planters built into it. The structure group created a model that has a wood joint system and a model that had metal tubes instead to compare which version will be best. The display group began using photoshop to illustrate the 6 panels, and worked on the material list for the panels. The bench group worked on finalizing the material list needed in order to send to power construction, who is graciously able to donate lumber for the project.


Today we got into a large group at the beginning of the work day to have a list of things to accomplish. Most of the groups stayed the same as Monday, although a few students were put into smaller groups in order to work on: gravel vs concrete for the base of the structure and for the path way from sidewalk to the Ufarm gate, leaf cladding material list, and finding the orientation of the structure on the site. Christian took a group of students to the site, which were able to mark off where the pathway and the structure will be placed so that we can begin digging soon. A few students were able to give insight to what they did today and what they learned, one student from the information display group said she was finishing up the layout of the panels before she implements the information about the Ufarm. “Being able to adjust to changes made for the panels and columns made some moments rigorous, yet seeing the reality of a process like this in the project expands my appreciation for work being done on a larger scale” – Riley


Today the team took a trip downtown to see the construction being done on the renovation process of the Willis (Sears) Tower. The project is going to make a new lobby space, while also updating the elevators to be faster and more energy efficient. The project is expected to be completed in 2020 and is the first large-scale renovation being done in the Tower’s history. Turner, Clayco, Thornton Tomasetti, ESD, and Gensler are a few of the companies working on the project. Iron and construction workers were seen actively working on the structural components of the renovation.


Today marked the beginning of the construction phase, as half of the team went out to level out the weed patch that took up space within the perimeter of where the structure will be built, and started to break ground to create a gravel path. The other half of the team stayed at the ideashop to continue working on the information panels, materials, and shop drawings. Material list has to go out to Power Construction, the company donating the lumber. Shop drawings of the leaf structure will be sent out to Chicago Rolled Metal Products.


The majority of the group went to the site to continue digging, and a few students stayed at the ideashop to finalize the information wall display panels. On site, measurements were checked and adjusted to ensure that a path is created from sidewalk to the ufarm. The group on site broke up into groups that worked on leveling out the weed patch and digging up the path to the ufarm gate.


A few of the students and TA’s came to bKL Architecture firm to work on the photoshop files that had the information panels, and the construction documents for the foundation of the columns, a site plan that showed the structure oriented in the position that it will be built in in order for the person that is coming out to pour concrete on Wednesday to see beforehand. They are expected to come survey the site on Monday, July 30th. We were able to get a tour of Matt’s office and we were able to have lunch before getting back to work. The group worked at the office from 9am-1pm, and some stayed till 4pm to continue working on the connection details between the columns and the leaf structure.  

Alexander Casimiro, Teaching Assistant

Week 5 (July 16-20)

Today we split into 2 groups: one working on the project, and one getting a SketchUp Tutorial. Since we are starting to use computer modeling heavily for the project, we decided it would be worth it to do an in-depth SketchUp tutorial. While half of the class were in the SketchUp Tutorial, the other half continued to work on the project, implementing the feedback that the client gave us on Friday. To achieve this, we split into 3 smaller groups: seating/planters, information wall design, and digital/physical model making. Here are some the things that we changed:
The leaf structure is no longer touching the ground
No water collection
Removed planters from the end of the leaf (too tall)
Picture of the cross-section instead of having a real one (for maintenance)

Today we finalized the leaf design with help from Dominick, from Sheehan Nagle Hartray Architects. We mapped out the leaf canopy to scale on the floor for the team to get a feel of how big it will be in real life. We decided that our original dimensions were too big, so we scaled it down. Instead of having the walls in a T-shape in the front of the leaf, we decided to split the walls and have one wall in the front, and one wall towards the back of the structure, for support. Since the planters will no longer be at the end of the leaf, we are going to design seating that incorporates planters as well. We are still deciding on steel vs wood columns for the structure. The information team is working on all the details for the display walls. There are 3 walls total, one will be telling the history of the UFarm, one will be displaying the technology, and one will be a Photo-Op. The information/technology display is our main priority because that has to be sent out to the client and must get approved. After we get a thumbs up from the client, we must send our the drawings to the manufacturer to get it printed. Keeping in mind the synergy between nature and technology, the students designed a wall with a hexagonal mosaic displaying information about the students and groups involved in maintaining the farm. Some of the hexagons which contain information, will be 3D to attract the eye of the viewer.

Kate and Mike from Turner Construction talked to the students about the next steps. What do we do now? Schedule! They told the team about the reality of planning in construction. As an architect, you will always want to keep working on your design but you have to learn to stop and move on. We are at a point in the project where we have to finalize everything. Making a materials list, calling manufacturers, and making shop drawings are next on the list. Only 12 days left until we start construction. Let the countdown begin!

The seating/planters team worked on a materials list for the bench. The structure of the bench was altered due to the change of material for the information walls. The walls will not be structural, therefore the bench will have to be connected to the two columns on the middle and end of the Information wall. Joshua, Mike, and Diana from Turner Construction worked alongside students to create a schedule for the rest of the program. We nailed some key dates:
Monday 7/23- All designs finalized with dimensions
Tuesday 7/24- Finalize SketchUp Drawing, Finalize Leaf Canopy Design, Order
Bench Materials, Metal Visit
Thursday 7/26- Order Columns, Finalize Information Display Content
Friday 7/27- Client Meeting, Order Information Display Materials, Foundation
Monday 7/30- Group 1: Concrete Contractor Site Visit, Digging Layout
Group 2: Laser Cut Information Display Pieces
Group 3: Building Bench + Planters
Tuesday 7/31- Digging + Assembling Displays
Wednesday 8/1- Column Installation
Wed-Fri 8/1-3- Foundation Installation
Monday 8/6- Construction Begins
Y-Bracket, Bench, Soil/Flower Installation
Tue/Wed 8/7-8- Canopy Installation
Thursday 8/9- Install Information Panels
Friday 8/10- Clean Up & Final Presentation at 10:30

Today the team took a break from the Idea Shop and went to see past DBW projects. Everyone got on the train and headed to Homan Square. After seeing 2 of the past projects, students began to realize that our project has a lot of complicated parts to it and we have to stay simple! Visiting the projects also allowed the students to see how materials look after a year or two years of being built. We are leaning towards steel columns after seeing last year’s project. We also got inspiration for the material of our display wall and how we will lay out the information. We can’t wait to get back to the Idea Shop on Monday to finalize all of the little details and start shop drawings.

Lisette Velazquez, Teaching Assistant