In 2010, Katherine Darnstadt obtained her architecture license, got promoted, got married, got laid off, and got pregnant all within a six-month period. With no job prospects in sight, she started the practice Latent Design as a “Plan B.” She pulled $10,000 from her 401k and Roth IRA account to fund the first few months of working for herself. She worked with Chicago’s Architecture for Humanity chapter to create a design competition with the intent of activating Chicago’s vacant lots that the city-owned. She raised $1,000 that would be offered to the winner of the competition to construct the project on a vacant lot for a one-year period. The winning entry, a series of modular garden boxes, was a tremendous success. The Little Village community around the vacant lot rallied to raise $100,000 and the legal right to install a permanent installation.4
The original competition, Activate!, continued for three more years creating more pop-up projects in communities. This, in turn, generated a commission with the Chicago Department of Transportation to create a three-year public place-making project along with actual commissions. Latent Design now has dozens of built projects, a real office, and employees. Katherine may not fit your idea of an Architect & Developer, but I think she does. She created a thing that created the work. She did not design that first project, she generated and facilitated the existence of it. She found a pathway to capital that created a tangible piece of the community without having the capital herself. I love her story and her work.
In 2014, Katherine was the opening keynote speaker to the AIA symposium Grow: Practice, Profession, and Career: Cultivating the Next Generation of Architectural Leaders in New York. See more information about Katherine and her work at their website, LatentDesign.net
Katherine starts at 9:00.
Architect and educator Katherine Darnstadt is the founder and principal of Latent Design, a collaborative of individuals whose projects focus on social, economic and environmental impact beyond the building. Katherine brings innovative design to those in resource and budget limited environments through a holistic, creative approach to design driven by community needs that leverages other partners and assets to address project challenges. Her passion for public interest design through participatory strategies and diverse background have allowed her to collaborate with change agents in design, science, arts and philosophy. Since founding her practice in 2010, Katherine and her firm have been recognized as an emerging leader in the architecture profession and have been published, exhibited and featured widely, most notably at the International Venice Biennale, Core 77 Design Awards, Architizer A+ Awards, Chicago Ideas Week, NPR, and as the 2013 American Institute of Architects Young Architects Honor Award winner.