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In 2010, the firm founded LBBA Labs, a summer program that employs high school students and college-age mentors. The program provides an entry point for young designers to participate in community design and empowers local residents to impact their environment through the design process.

In 2010, the firm founded LBBA Labs, a summer program that employs high school students and college-age mentors. The program provides an entry point for young designers to participate in community design and empowers local residents to impact their environment through the design process.

BUILD Lab 2023

For the second year, we partnered with BUILD Chicago, a nonprofit organization focused on helping youth achieve a positive future. In 2019, the BUILDLab interns researched and prototyped furniture for the common areas, art rooms, and other sensitive spaces for BUILD’s expanded community center in the Austin neighborhood. This year, BUILD and CPS youth conducted post-occupancy studies and made recommendations on interventions for future phases of the community center.


The LBBA Labs are a nationally-recognized summer employment program for high school students with an interest in architecture, design, and planning. During the six-week workshop, participants study building design and initiate change in their neighborhood through environmental assessment studies and community asset mapping. This program provides an entry point for young designers to participate in community design and empowers residents to impact their environment throughout the process. Each year the program’s focus has differed from indoor air quality, biker advocacy, furniture prototyping, and shade mapping; all of which provide valuable insight into an upcoming or recent project. The 2023 Labs group, BUILDLab, marked our 11th-year hosting students through this paid internship.

Upon completion of the 11th year of programming in 2023, we summarize that 53 students have participated, representing 28 Chicago high schools. Of these 53 students, 92% were people of color and many pursued higher education in the field of architecture, engineering, or construction.


  • Provide a high quality, paid summer internship program for students interested in architecture and related fields

  • Teach architecture and design skills as well as social, educational, and career readiness

  • Promote future diversity in the field by offering early career exposure and mentorship

  • Encourage civic responsibility and engagement amongst participants and community members

  • Deliver real solutions to issues impacting focus communities


  • Architecture and design skills (drafting, models, software modeling)

  • Creative problem solving

  • Public speaking

  • Career readiness: resume, email writing, interviewing

  • Communication skills

  • Graphic design and presentation development

  • Networking

  • Collaboration

Previous Labs

BUILD Lab 2019

BUILDLab, in partnership with the Chicago nonprofit BUILD, is the 10th year of LBBA Labs. BUILD focuses on neighborhood health and wellness issues for youth—encompassing ideas of violence reduction and prolonging the lives of neighborhood youth. The BUILDLab interns researched and prototyped elements for the common areas, art rooms, and other sensitive spaces such as the youth court and youth counseling spaces for BUILD’s facility expansion in the neighborhood of Austin. The team’s final designs were informed by site visits, interviews with building users and members of the community, and meetings with BUILD Board members and staff. BUILDLab students made design recommendations that address security and safety issues for the youth who attend programs at BUILD.

tinyLab 2018

tinyLabs partnered with La Casa Norte and Pride Action Tank to research and prototype elements for a tiny house village planned for college students experiencing homelessness in the West Englewood neighborhood of Chicago. The team conducted site visits, interviewed potential clients and members of the community, met with stakeholders and partners, and designed and built furniture mock-ups that addressed the functional and social needs of future tiny house residents.

cityLab 2017

cityLab 2017 investigated possible types of community spaces appropriate for a new supportive housing proposal within the redevelopment of the former Calhoun Elementary School. Throughout the summer, the young designers will develop an asset map of the surrounding East Garfield Park neighborhood and conduct interviews with community residents. The culminating presentation shared data and designs with community partner Heartland Housing and members of the community.

bikeLab 2016

bikeLab partnered with LUCHA to develop a plan for making their Humboldt Park buildings more bike- and biker-friendly. Students interviewed LUCHA residents about their bike use, researched the neighborhood, visited bike shops, toured buildings with bike-centered design, and ultimately created an overall plan for integrating bike use into LUCHA buildings. Tierra Linda and Humboldt Park Residence have been designed with indoor bike racks per the recommendations.

cityLab 2015

In partnership with Claretian Associates, the 2015 cityLab incorporated neighborhood history, data collection, and personal stories of South Chicago. Through cityLab, the interns conducted site visits, interviewed residents, and gathered research to study the social, economic, and cultural landscape of South Chicago. The goal of cityLab was to collect observations regarding the past, present, and future framework of the neighborhood that will assist in understanding the community’s design and planning needs. cityLab’s findings were used to make recommendations to Claretians Associates on land use opportunities and LBBA used the collected data to create their entry in the Chicago Architectural Biennial.

cityLab 2014

Partnering with Brinshore Development and The Michaels Organization, cityLab 2014 studied human interaction, environmental health, and the built environment at Westhaven Park, the replacement housing for the Henry Horner Homes in Chicago’s Near West Side. The team of interns, including several from Westhaven, observed the site and interviewed residents to better understand how urban design affects the community. The team then guided the redesign of the existing underutilized central park based on their feedback and research.

cityLab 2013

cityLab 2013 partnered with Holsten Development to explore and investigate several problem areas at Parkside of Oldtown. Through a series of neighborhood and building analyses, the student interns examined public vs. private spaces, retail, workspace, recreation, green spaces, and pedestrian, bike, and automobile traffic at the intersection of Division and Clybourn. cityLab students also observed and recorded pedestrian activity—ultimately making recommendations to LBBA for public space designs based on the identified needs of Parkside residents.

airLab 2.0

airLab 2.0 partnered with Bickerdike Redevelopment to continue the research started with airLab. Some unusual temperature and humidity data from the previous year suggested that airflow in the apartments may not be acting as intended. The students conducted a variety of tests and made recommendations for exhaust fan use.


airLab partnered with Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation to apply for and secure a grant from Enterprise Green Communities to investigate indoor air quality at the recently completed Rosa Parks Apartments. The program's goal was to provide insight for communities, organizations, and city leaders so they can make informed decisions about how they can improve the health, well-being, and efficiency of their neighborhoods through awareness and good design. The students built air quality sensors and produced a brochure that gave residents vital information on harmful materials used in cleaning products, building materials, and furniture.


shadeLab partnered with LUCHA to investigate community wellness around the Borinquen Bella Apartments in Humboldt Park. The students collected data on trees and temperatures through environmental assessment studies, community asset mapping, and neighborhood service/design projects, and by using high-tech sensors as well as self-made measuring devices. By overlaying this data with the mapping of the physical assets, nature, social life, and stories that surround these spaces, interns created a holistic ‘snapshot’ of the wellness of the neighborhood as it relates to design. Ultimately, their 3D model of the existing tree coverage in the neighborhood assisted LUCHA in requesting that the city plant several trees in front of their building.


Community Partners


“The firm works hard to ensure a high quality of design. They take a craftsman approach instead of a cookie-cutter approach.”


Vice President of Acquisitions and Development, The Michaels Development Company

Previous Labs