Douglass 18


2022 Honor Award


Chicago, IL


Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago Park District



Landscape Architects

site design group, ltd.

Project Details

The Douglass 18 is a community-led, youth-designed, and conservation-focused 18-hole mini golf facility in the heart of Chicago’s Anna and Frederick Douglass Park. Owned by the Chicago Park District, the mini golf course was one of the first of its kind in the city’s park system, but closed over a decade ago because of years of neighborhood disinvestment and neglect. A local artist and community organizer saw an opportunity to bring the course back to life and created the Douglass CATs, a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Match) program for high school students from the North Lawndale neighborhood. Through the program, students learned about the environment of the Chicago Region through design thinking, their project centered on the redevelopment of the mini golf course. The Douglass CATS students spent three years immersed in the research, design, and implementation of the course. The Lincoln Park Zoo led the research phase of the process, instructing the students on the basics of ornithology. Each student selected a bird native to the Chicago region and researched how it lived and what it ate, documenting the key facts they found interesting about the bird. Instructors from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) led the design process and concepts, guiding the students through site analysis and visioning, with site design group, ltd. periodically serving as guest critics and instructors. Each student designed up to two different mini golf holes centered around the bird they chose. Some chose to design their hole around the colors of its feathers, the types of nests it builds, or the kind of things it likes to eat. site design group, ltd. led the students through the design development and construction documentation process, working together to select specific materials, colors, and products for their designs. In addition, the students learned about how designers and landscape architects take their initial sketches to transform them into technical drawings that contractors can use to build the elements. site design group, ltd. worked closely with a playground manufacturer to refine the students design into buildable structures that adhered to the student’s original vision while also fitting into the overall project budget. To meet these constraints the design team selected a variety of both Glass Fiber Reinforced Concrete (GFRC) cast sculptures and printed permalene panels attached to powder-coated steel posts. The Lincoln Park Zoo served as a primary funder and facilitator of the project, with additional partners such as the Trust for Public Land, LL Bean, the Firehouse Community Center for the Arts, School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), and Open Architecture Chicago providing time, resources, or additional funding to help make this project a reality. Through collaboration with these organizations, the landscape architecture team helped to make the students’ visions a reality, bringing a beloved destination back to life for generations to come.

Project Team

Douglass Park CATS, Open Architecture Chicago, Firehouse Community Arts Center, SAIC Homan Square, The Trust for Public Land, Eric Hotchkiss, Haman Cross III, Sheila McNary

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