Chicago’s Future Firm aims to spearhead change

The American Midwest has been shaking up the world of architecture. As part of our Next Generation 2022 project, we explore ten emerging practices pioneering change. Meet Chicago’s Future Firm

Hem House by Future Firm. A loft area with a wooden chair, a wall bench with plants on and rectangular vertical windows.
Hem House by Future Firm. Photography: Daniel Kelleghan.
(Image credit: Daniel Kelleghan)

Ann Lui and Craig Reschke head Future Firm, a boutique architecture studio they set up in 2015 in Chicago. They are joined by Pei-San Ng, Andrea Hunt, and Chloe Munkenbeck and together they make up a studio that is small, but punches far above its weight in ambition and influencing power. 

So, what exactly is Future Firm’s specialty? ‘The fastest way to describe us is that we are architects for changemakers. We do not specialise in any specific building type or style, but tend to work well with people who want to make change in their own communities or industries and see architecture as a means to that end,’ says Lui. ‘We also like to describe Future Firm as a dialogue between the two words in our name. “Future” refers to things that are speculative, catalytic, sci-fi oriented, and “firm” to a focus on buildings that do not leak and are delivered on time and on budget. The practice is a balance and tension between the two.’

Future Firm’s Ann Lui and Craig Reschke.

Future Firm’s Ann Lui and Craig Reschke, photographed by Hugo Yu at The Robey in Chicago.

(Image credit: Hugo Yu)

Thinking about ‘unlikely but seductive futures’, as well as thinking outside the box, both in terms of formal styles and architectural atmosphere, and practical parts of the job – like the bureaucracy that comes with it – are all key drivers for Lui and Reschke. Also, ‘When useful, bite the hand that feeds’, they add. 

Projects such as the Bronzeville Winery, a restaurant focused on art, music, and wine in Chicago’s South Side, led by Eric Williams and Cecilia Cuff; and Hem House, a single-family home trying to make contemporary design available to a broader market for Hem Development, are good examples of projects that work hard and on many levels – bringing together architecture, community, and culture in a powerful mix that inspires and enriches the lives of its users. 

Hem House. An overview photo of a blue house at night under green trees.

Hem House. Photography: Daniel Kelleghan.

(Image credit: Daniel Kelleghan)

As one might suspect, picking the right clients is crucial in Future Firm’s groundbreaking endeavours. ‘We work best with changemakers, dreamers, night owls, rebels and rule breakers. People who throw a good party. People who are good at choosing the right song that makes everyone else want to dance. So-called “impossible” buildings or sites,’ says Reschke.

Meanwhile, extracurricular activities beyond the ‘conventional’ architectural commission also inform their practice, as both Lui and Reschke are also involved in teaching, exhibitions and curatorial projects, research and policy proposals, pro bono and advocacy work and construction and development. Multi-tasking and multi-achieving, Future Firm is one to watch. 

A silver room with a wooden desk, wooden wall shelving with books on them and a person standing in front of it.

The Silver Room. Photography: Ross Floyd.

(Image credit: Ross Floyd)

Tattoo Lounge. A room with tables, chairs, book shelves and wall consoles.

Tattoo Lounge.

(Image credit: Daniel Kelleghan)

A restaurant with decorated wooden tables, round black chairs, booths and wall photographs on a red to white vignetted wall.

Bronzeville Winery.

(Image credit: Daniel Kelleghan)


A version of this article appears in the January 2022 Next Generation issue of Wallpaper* (W*273). Subscribe today!

Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture & Environment Director at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018), Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020) and House London (2022).