For a radical rethink of friendly police buildings, Gang decided to shake up her own design process. Instead of starting at the drawing board, her studio went to Chicago community members and law enforcement officers for design tips.

“Sometimes designers are afraid to engage communities directly, including me because [I’m thinking] what are they going to say to threaten my aesthetic,” confessed the creator of Chicago’s latest architectural marvel, the Aqua Tower. ”But there were so many great ideas and things that I would not have thought of myself.”

Image for article titled Can architecture make people trust cops?
Image: Studio Gang Architects

Gang’s plan features creative ideas for repurposing abandoned parking lots and parking garages surrounding a precinct. Polis paints an idyllic mix-use complex with sports facilities, outdoor theaters, cafes, places of worship, markets, a community vegetable garden, meditation zones and public housing for cops and community members.

Some low-budget interventions include providing free wifi or introducing a bench outside buildings. After debuting Polis Project for the Chicago Architecture Biennale last year, Gang plans to actively showcase her ideas in more cities across the US. Her firm has also implemented these community-friendly principles in the design of a new fire station in Brownsville, Brooklyn, one of the poorest and most dangerous neighborhoods of New York City.

Gang says the community meetings helped define a new process for her studio. “When we learn to design, as architects we pin up our drawing and learn how to defend our designs but we don’t actually learn how to engage with communities,” says Gang. “I think it’s a thing that everyone needs to know how do. It’s the future of design.”

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