Maya Bird-Murphy and the Chicago Mobile Makers deepen their roots in community change with the opening of their new headquarters | New
When reading architectural media, it’s easy for big architectural firms or “prominent” names to dominate the headlines. However, many practitioners and design groups are making significant changes in the industry and their communities beyond media influence. Such is the case with architectural designer, fabricator and educator Maya Bird-Murphy, founder and executive director of the Chicago Mobile Makers.
If you know the Oak Park, Illinois native, it’s from her work with Chicago youth and her team of designers and educators who lead workshops in their hard-to-miss repainted UPS trucks.
What started as a thesis project for Bird-Murphy while at Boston Architectural College quickly grew into the award-winning nonprofit organization it is today. After reflecting on her own experiences as a black architecture student and designer working in corporations, she understood the need to increase diversity within the industry. The architect/founder of the association quickly realized that this change in representation and diversity would start with the empowerment of young people.
In an April 2022 interview with her alma mater, Ball State University, she reflected on her time in architecture school and wondered “why [architecture lacked diversity] and if i could do something about it. I felt like I had to represent my race a lot, which is uncomfortable, and we didn’t really get to know the color designers.”
After earning her M.Arch in 2017, Bird-Murphy continued transforming her thesis project into reality. She learned the ins and outs of building a non-profit organization that engaged youth, trained and supported future architects and designers, and advocated for socio-economic change.
Since then, the Chicago Mobile Makers have made their mark in Chicago through their mobile pop-up workshops and public outreach programs that introduce children and young adults to architecture and design through reinforcement workshops. skills.
In five years, Bird-Murphy and his team’s dedication to social design practices have led to another significant milestone for the organization. After receiving $30,000 from the Chicago Bulls as part of the NBA’s 75th Anniversary Legacy Project, the organization now has its first official headquarters within the Kimball Arts Center in Humboldt Park.
Bird-Murphy shared with Mina Bloom of Block Chicago Club in June: “More and more studies are coming out on youth mental health these days.” Noting the value and importance of safe spaces for children and young people, she continued: “They really need a place to be that isn’t home or school, and we just want to be that safe, consistent place where they know they’re going to be taken care of, their parents know they’re taken care of.”
With the official opening and inauguration of the new location on June 11, the team is preparing for its summer program and the continuation of the mobile pop-up workshops. News and updates on the progress of the organization can be seen on their active social media platforms, sharing with the community the exciting things to come.
The Chicago Mobile Makers, with their tenacious leader Bird-Murphy, remind us how architecture can be used as a catalyst for change. Since then, the organization and the work of its founder have gained notoriety among many people. I think back to a response from his interview with Madam Architect in 2020 that reinforces the importance of social design and its place in practice.
“I lived and learned with almost all white people. That’s when I decided I wanted to do social architecture. At school, I was uncomfortable a lotbut this has guided what i actually want to do in this area […] Architecture was slowly changing, but times are changing, and I am one of many people talking about this change and practicing it on a daily basis. We need people to talk about this as well as workers’ rights, labor rights and equal pay.”
While this is just a brief profile of someone who, along with his team, has created spaces for learning and growth within the Chicago community, it’s news like this that our industry must not forget to recognize, celebrate and, above all, support .