Meet Chicago Architecture Studio DAAM

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Meet the Champions of Chicago DAAM Architecture Collaboration

Exciting young studios in the American Midwest are rocking the architectural world. As part of our Next Generation 2022 project, we are exploring ten pioneering practices for change. It’s DAAM

DAAM is an acronym for “Designers, Architects, Artists and Makers”, and it’s a name that aptly sums up the position of this young, interdisciplinary and energetic studio and its deeply collaborative and practical culture.

“DAAM (pronounced ‘dam’) was a deliberately bold choice,” says Chicago-based studio founder Elyse Agnello. “It serves to draw attention to our work process and our product rather than our authorship, and its playful irreverence reflects our design aspirations. “

DAAM: creating “new ways for people to live, learn and be together”

DAAM’s Elyse Agnello and Alex Shelly, photographed by Hugo Yu at the Robey in Chicago

Agnello created DAAM in 2016 and was quickly joined by current co-director Alex Shelly. Together they lead a small team of two to six people, pursuing “the kind of work that values ​​neighborhoods, breathes new life into abandoned structures, inspires a better future and creates new ways for people to live, to learn. and to be together ”. Seeing themselves as a ‘people-centered’ practice, they put conversation and function at the heart of their design process – form comes next.

This is also reflected in their choice of project, client and collaborator. “We pride ourselves on not having ‘a type’ when it comes to the projects we undertake. We’ve researched and created projects where issues are celebrated, craftsmanship is embraced, and good design is truly appreciated, ”Agnello says. That said, he does express a soft spot for “vibrant gathering spaces,” such as the studio’s Lyte Lounge (converting a nursery into a community center for at-risk and homeless youth in the South Chicago neighborhood). and Guild Row (a former site transformed into a new membership club around creativity and civic engagement).

Guild line

However, their groundbreaking project is undoubtedly Shell House, a tiny house of just 1,000 square feet in the Catskill Mountains. The project is a delicate renovation of a retreat originally designed in 1996 by architect Seymour Rutkin (with consultation from the Monolithic Dome Institute), and its refined approach and extreme attention to detail has resulted in numerous awards and publications. Other housing work, including market entry initiatives, like their Starter Home project, a concept they have been incubating for several years, is currently underway.

The duo’s multidisciplinary attitude and energetic nature mean that their work often takes them beyond ‘traditional’ design and construction. They both often teach, while Agnello is also a co-founder of Guild Row, as well as the design director of Platform Managers, a real estate development and business management company. All of their “extracurricular” activities help them grow and pollinate their daily design practice.

Guild line

What are they missing in today’s architectural world? “Globally, we always need more open-minded young practitioners from diverse backgrounds who are able to combine their architectural expertise and other life experiences,” says Agnello. “Locally, it’s an exciting time to lead a small firm in Chicago. The city values ​​design and, with the continued development of civic initiatives aimed at addressing local issues of poverty and racism, associated with the Chicago Architecture Biennale highlighting the role of architecture and design in the city. At the intersection of critical issues such as health, sustainability, equity and racial justice, local opportunities abound.

“However, creative small businesses generally need better ways to seize these opportunities. We need to develop better tools and processes to productively fit into these conversations and projects. ‘ §

Seashell house

Seashell house

Lyte Gym

Startup home concept


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