Cover the Grid

By Outpost Office

An installation for the 2021 Chicago Architecture Biennial: The Available City.

Cover the Grid is a series of architectural-scale urban land paintings produced with GPS-guided robots in the neighborhoods of North Lawndale and Pilsen. The typical application for these semi-autonomous robots is the painting of sports fields. Cover the Grid uses this temporary space-making technique to prototype and envision futures for underutilized and underserved locations on Chicago’s West Side. Each urban painting engages civic boundaries, public rights-of-way, the Chicago grid, and existing neighborhood infrastructure. Cover the Grid produces a dynamic, temporary civic space with no associated material waste or demolition costs. The project is expansive, not expensive. Cover the Grid’s semi-autonomous robots ensure the project eschews the waste consequences often associated with temporary architecture. It is a temporal installation that disappears with only sun, wind, and rain.

Cover the Grid transforms vacant territory into landscapes for civic gathering through the modest act of painting; this installation activates civic space by superimposing new programs, remapping existing urban boundaries, or re-parceling existing lots to reveal the potential of existing parcels in The Available City. The project embraces the improvisational approach encouraged by The Available City, with complementary concepts that respond to the distinct and dynamic contexts of Pilsen and North Lawndale. In North Lawndale, the project focuses on essential community assets such as the WACA basketball court and adjacent Pink Line station. In Pilsen, the project expands the footprint of El Paseo community garden, prompting visitors to speculate on future uses for this growing community asset. Outpost Office will use the proposed design for the Lot Expansion to create a temporary abstract drone painting on the lot for the community to interact with. This installation will be unveiled during the Annual Harvest Festival on October 9th from 4pm to 8pm.

Cover the Grid is the latest in a series of installations for civic gathering by Outpost Office that explore how architecture might be simultaneously impactful and inexpensive, temporal, and open-ended.