Soil Lab

The Soil Lab project team is made up of three architects, James Albert Martin, Eibhlín Ní Chathasaigh, and Anne Dorthe Vester, and one designer, Maria Bruun, working across different scales, materials, and disciplines. James, Eibhlín, and Anne Dorthe studied together at the Aarhus School of Architecture in Denmark and have since collaborated on several projects. James and Eibhlín are based in Dublin, where they have both worked for internationally renowned architecture firms. Maria and Anne Dorthe are based in Copenhagen, where they founded the studio MBADV in 2013. Their practice with MBADV is at the intersection of architecture, design, and fine art. The project team comes together around a belief in making as a collaborative act: making moments, and making spaces and places for people to gather, to celebrate, and to treasure space.

Eibhlín Ní Chathasaigh graduated from the Aarhus School of Architecture, Denmark, in 2011. Since graduating she has worked for Atelier Peter Zumthor in Switzerland and Grafton Architects in Dublin, Ireland. In 2018, Eibhlín joined James and Anne Dorte in participating in the REFORM Design Biennale with their collaboration Woven Construct, constructed in the garden of Munkeruphus Center of Contemporary Art, in Zealand, Denmark. Eibhlín believes imagination is the central strength of architecture and is interested in the social act of architecture and design as a collaborative conversation. It is with great pleasure that, together with the people of North Lawndale and the Soil Lab team, she embarks on transforming a vacant lot in West Chicago into a new public space.

James Albert Martin is a registered architect with the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland and Grade 3 Accredited in Architectural Conservation. He has taught at The Aarhus School of Architecture and at University College Dublin where he is currently a Design Fellow. James is interested in the act of making, and his work is informed by this collaborative act. James holds a MA from The Aarhus School of Architecture and has also undertaken courses in joinery at Capellagården - a school for craft and design. Since graduating he has worked with international studios; Sou Fujimoto Architects, Herzog & de Meuron, and Grafton Architects. In 2018, James, Eibhlín, and Anne Dorte participated in REFORM Design Biennale with their collaboration Woven Construct, a seat, a screen, space, which they constructed in the garden of Munkeruphus, north of Copenhagen.

Throughout her work, whether small or large scale, architect Anne Dorthe Vester's projects are based on the study of materials and the processing of these. The craft in itself is central to her understanding of materials. She is also part of the duo MBADV that works with objects in the cross-field between art, architecture, and design. MBADV is a collaboration with furniture designer Maria Bruun. Anne Dorthe Vester holds a MA from The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Architecture, and a BA from Aarhus School of Architecture. Additionally, she has taken courses in joinery at KTS (Copenhagen technical college) and at Capellagården - school for craft and design.

With her work, the Danish designer Maria Bruun joins a long-standing design tradition. With sincere respect for classic Danish furniture, Bruun builds on this foundation with an innovative approach, creating her design in close dialogue with skilled craftspeople. She often devotes her work to the refinement of the individual elements and persistently seeks out new possibilities in her field. Bruun was appointed emerging talent 2019-2020 by the Danish Arts Foundation. This honorable appointment positions her as one of the most promising emerging designers in Denmark right now. She is a part of the duo MBADV that works with objects in the cross-field between art, architecture, and design. MBADV is a collaboration with architect Anne Dorthe Vester. Maria Bruun holds a MA in furniture Design from The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Design.

Soil Lab

The Soil Lab project involves two main elements: the making of structures out of bricks, rammed earth, and ceramic tiles; and the construction of spaces for communal gathering. To enable community members as participants in this creation, a series of workshops will provide skills related to the craft of making and designing, including brick making, wall construction, and how to create a community through making. 

Each material has significance to both the Chicago and the Danish architectural vernacular, and the project creates a special meeting between architecture, object, and the body as participants are invited to engage in the process of creating bricks, to slow down and consider the materiality of the spaces that we occupy.

Soil Lab is a team of four architects and designers based in Copenhagen and Dublin, who came together to create Soil Lab in response to an open call from the Danish Arts Foundation for a major new commission in the North Lawndale neighborhood in response to the Biennial’s themes.

The project’s focus on soil and brick is influenced by the landscape architect and Danish immigrant, Jens Jensen. Jensen would go on to found what he termed a ‘school of the soil’ in Wisconsin at The Clearing for people to connect with soil and the natural environment. It is directly out of Jensen’s school that the Soil Lab was born. The team was inspired by Jensen’s belief in reconnecting with oneself and one’s community through engaging with nature and natural materials, and work, which can be seen throughout several of Chicago’s major parks.