Polis Station: Architect’s vision to reimagine police buildings receives international attention

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While Chicago’s focus on the giant Vista Tower has drawn attention to architect Jeanne Gang‘s work, her vision for a new type of police station, which initially drew attention at the Chicago Architectural Biennial last fall, has become a topic of discussion in Canada.

“If you can remake space, you can change a culture,” the Toronto Globe and Mail quoted her as saying at Carleton University in Ottawa.

“That sort of statement has been too rare; for a generation, architects have eschewed such social ambition and the responsibility that comes with it. But Gang, an intellectual leader in the field, is trying to knit together the work of making beautiful buildings and the larger job of building a city that holds together. It’s a rounded vision of what design is about: beauty, but also prosperity and justice.”

Her proposal, outlined in a case study in Chicago’s 10th district, seeks to reconnect the police station with its surrounding community with a public basketball court and free wi-fi, among other amenities.

polis station basketball court
Young people from the neighborhood and the CAPS Explorers program join Jeanne Gang, 24th Ward Alderman Michael Scott Jr.; Mayor Rahm Emanuel; 10th District Commander Francis Valadez; and Willa Lang, Executive Director of the Chicago Parks Foundation, as they cut the ribbon inaugurating the new court. (Studio Gang)

The Studio Gang website reports:

Transforming police stations into full-service community centers can improve public safety and enhance both social connectivity and the economic strength of the surrounding neighborhood. Police stations are strategically located within communities and are therefore poised to offer crucial services that people need and desire. Simple interventions into existing police stations such as co-locating social services, offering access to job training, or offering space for public gathering in or near the Polis Station, improve communication, efficiency, and access to resources. With overlapping functions, opportunities abound for collaborative partnerships between law enforcement and local community institutions.

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