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Wednesday Alison Von Glinow and Lap Chi Kwong

We at a+u are attempting to both process and adapt to the unfolding global health crisis. As a way to engage with this situation, we would like to use our digital platforms to compile and publish freely-accessible observations, commentary, and messaging from within the architecture and urbanism communities. Below, please find the fifth contribution to this series, by Alison Von Glinow and Lap Chi Kwong, co-founders of Kwong Von Glinow.

“Sharing Architecture” Perseveres

In our office we often use the term sharing architecture. We drive to create space where people come together in architecture. While obvious, physical space is tantamount to that experience. For the last couple of months, it’s been difficult to think about sharing space when the law has literally forbidden it. All we hear is social distancing, separation, 6 feet apart, stay-at-home. Each of these terms encourages the opposite of sharing.


Two summers ago we visited the Farnsworth House – which perhaps is home to the most talked about glass in a domestic setting of all time. The glass provides an unparalleled visual transparency, bringing the outside inside and the inside outside.

Now, we see the power of glass beyond a visual transparency – a glass that is all about sharing. Glass is bringing grandparents to grandkids, parents to children, and even spouses together – albeit on the other side. We’ve seen many images of two hands placed on opposite sides of a piece of glass, encouraging a physical connection through the visual properties of the glass.


Balconies – the architectural solution to provide fresh air and a connection to nature for high rise living – are often empty as a reflection of our always-on-the-go lifestyle. As a society, we hardly have time to have a cup of coffee out on the balcony. In some ways, balconies simply fulfill the real estate check-box for an extra space for extra-special occasions.

Now, the balcony has taken on a new significance as a way to share time and space with others. With our daughter, we’ve strollered past birthday parties bridging the sidewalk up to a 3rd floor apartment. We see balconies used as outdoor offices, dining rooms, and gyms. And, at 8pm every night in Chicago, balconies act as the city’s loggia, with everyone clapping and cheering for our healthcare workers.

After longing to see the physical presence of sharing – we see how architecture’s most elemental materials and spaces have created new grounds for sharing architecture. We are optimistic that these small instances show us that architecture perseveres to share.

Alison Von Glinow and Lap Chi Kwong are co-founders of the Chicago-based architectural practice Kwong Von Glinow. Their practice is founded on the belief that architecture is meant to be enjoyed. The practice builds the thoroughly enjoyable from the slightly familiar. By re-purposing and re-imagining the seemingly ordinary, Kwong Von Glinow has developed design solutions to the most pressing issues of our time: from underused infrastructure to housing innovation.