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
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.’
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.
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. §