Adaptive reuse turns old Chicago post office into America’s first garment manufacturing co-op run by immigrant and refugee women

In Chicago, Illinois, Blue Tin Production is America’s first apparel manufacturing worker co-operative run by immigrant and refugee women…a welcome new wrinkle in an industry more commonly know for worker abuse, child labor and slave-like working conditions.

They have now unveiled their newest project: 63rd House.

It’s an innovative multi-functional community space, library, and manufacturing studio on the southwest side of the city, designed by the architecture and urban design practice Studio Gang.

The existing building, a former post office built in 1920, will be developed into a mixed-use, net-zero energy community hub housing co-working space for youth afterschool, a library, exhibition and gallery space, office space for mental health practitioners, event space for political education and mutual aid, rooftop garden with photovoltaic panels, and the new Blue Tin HQ sustainable manufacturing studio.

Blue Tin is built as a creative approach to systems-change, tackling historic issues in the fashion industry related to gender, class, race, sustainability, and colonialism that have long remained ‘too complicated’ to address,” said Hoda Katebi, Founding Member of Blue Tin Production.

Every day we get to imagine what we want the world to look like for our team and actively work to build it together—and now we’re so excited to be able to explore what this means on a larger, community level,” she added.

63rd House is a finalist for the prestigious $250,000 award from the City of Chicago Neighborhood Opportunity Fund.

Blue Tin chose to partner with the Chicago-based Studio Gang, both for their experience in adaptive re-use, and for their commitment to environmental and social justice.

Blue Tin has been working in close collaboration with Black and brown youth-led organizations in Chicago Lawn and Studio Gang to assess the existing conditions of the 3055 W 63rd Street building and explore spatial and sustainable strategies for its reuse.

Studio Gang’s design for the building’s reinvention draws on the unique qualities of the historic structure to create a welcoming place that can connect people across differences through shared making, learning, conversation, and convening.

We are so happy to partner with Hoda and the rest of Blue Tin Production to support a women-led, women-owned organization that is making bold change in the fashion industry and building a strong, caring community in the process. BTP demonstrates that a model founded on equity and environmental responsibility is not only possible—it can also result in the highest quality of craft,” says Studio Gang founder Jeanne Gang.

Partnering with their team to remake a neglected structure into a new headquarters that expands their impact and becomes an asset for the whole neighborhood is an example of the kind of micro-urbanism we are excited to help make happen,” she concluded.

Blue Tin and Studio Gang’s collaboration were also showcased in late 2021 at an exhibition as part of the Chicago Architecture Biennale. Designed by Studio Gang with artist Hale Ekinci, the show highlighted Blue Tin’s work within the fashion industry as well as Studio Gang’s design for 63rd House.

All images courtesy of Studio Gang.

See Studio Gang website.

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