Norman Teague displays prototype of Douglass monument in Chicago

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Norman Teague Design Studios has erected a plywood structure as a full-scale model of the future monument to American abolitionists Frederick and Anna Douglass, for the Chicago Architecture Biennial.

The studio created the pavilion using wood, plastics and recycled materials to honour the legacy of American abolitionists Frederick and Anna Douglass. A copper version of the pavilion is set to built in a Chicago park.

Called Tetisi = Listen, the project stands 15 feet tall at its highest point and was constructed in an empty lot adjacent to an elevated metro line in the city’s Englewood neighbourhood.

Norman Teague Design Studios created a pavilion honouring abolitionists Frederick and Anna Douglass in Chicago

“[It] speculates on plastic politics, wire mesh architecture, recycling, and community-building,” said Norman Teague Design Studios.

“Inspired by the teachings of Anna and Frederick Douglass, this project, initiated at the 2023 Venice Architecture Biennale, focuses on Africa and communities of color as future laboratories, and promotes listening, environmental justice and recycling awareness.”

The pavilion consists of a central dome with four tunnels spreading out from the centre. Each of the tunnels has a different theme, representing different aspects of the abolitionists’ teachings.

The tunnels were topped with thick plastic that allows light to enter and their exteriors feature quotes from Douglass as well as chalkboards and chalk with prompts to promote engagement from people who come to see it.

It is a prototype for a monument planned for the city’s Douglass Park

Inside some of the tunnels, graphics from the Chicago Design Museum were installed, explaining the purpose of the pavilion and illustrating more quotes from Douglass.

Following the studio’s interest in plastics, one of the tunnels was dedicated to recycling and features seating made from “plastic lumber” developed by local studio Redemptive Plastics.

Going along with the Chicago Architecture Biennial’s 2023 theme – This Is a Rehearsal, Tetisi = Listen is a “one-to-one” model of a slatted copper monument that will be placed in the city’s recently renamed Douglass Park.


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“This is to honor and illuminate and to recognize the steadfastness of the ongoing intellectual contributions that the Douglasses have brought to our culture and our community,” said Norman Teague Design Studios assistant Daniel Overbey.

“The piece in Douglas Park is going to just patina really nicely so the intention is for it to stand forever, but look like it’s something that is old that is neoclassical,” he continued.

It features graphics by the Chicago Design Museum

Overbey noted that while the “formal language of neoclassicism” isn’t usually “associated with Black people” the studio wanted to focus on the permanence and contemplation in order to make it “feel like the Sistine Chapel”.

For the pavilion’s dome, local artist Dorian Sylvain included a small mural. Sylvain has been commissioned to include a mural in the dome of the final structure in Douglass Park.

The installation is part of the off-site programming of the fifth Chicago Architecture Biennial, curated by art collective The Floating Museum. The programming included a primary show at the Chicago Cultural Center as well as a number of installations installed at the postmodern Thompson Center in Downtown Chicago.

Norman Teague founded his studio in 2019 has created large-scale installations for past Chicago Architecture Biennials.

The photography is by Cory Dewald. 

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