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Upcoming Graphic Novel Plots The Past (& Future) Of Chicago Architecture

By Stephen Gossett in Arts & Entertainment on Apr 5, 2017 8:25PM

Drawing on Chicago's international reputation for architecture and its comparatively lesser-known—but no less sterling—history of comics culture, the Chicago Architecture Foundation is putting the finishing ink on a unique new venture. No Small Plans is the the foundation's promising jump into the realm of graphic novels, telling the tale of the past, present and future of the city's built environment.

The upcoming three-chapter, 144-page graphic novel culls some of its inspiration from a surprisingly still-relevant urban-planning textbook called Wacker's Manual, from 1911. Kids at the CAF's youth fellowship loved the old volume when it was taught, but also thought a contemporary upgrade-of-sorts was in order. After two years spent gathering input and creating designs, the finished product is getting ready to launch. It moves from the post-"construction boom" period of 1928 on the South and West Sides, through displacement anxieties of gentrification-era Logan Square and Pilsen and into a fictional "geographically factionalized" future.

"[Daniel] Burnham and other city planners of his time were mainly thinking about what to build and where,” Gabrielle Lyon, creative director, writer and editor of No Small Plans told Citylab. "Our novel is about who decides to build, and how decisions get made."

Thanks to ongoing funding through Kickstarter, CAF hopes to begin distributing 5,000 copies of No Small Plans for free to Chicago teens later this year. Teachers can request free copies for their classroom here.

The graphic novel is illustrated by the Eyes of the Cat Illustration collective's founder Devin Mawdsley and three other members of the collective: Kayce Bayer, Chris Lin and Deon Reed.