Alexandra Lange
Architecture & design critic

A Graphic Novel to Transform Teens Into City Planners

Louis Sullivan's Carson Pirie Scott store in "No Small Plans," courtesy Chicago Architecture Foundation.

Chicago, 2211. The towers are taller. The apartments are smaller. The El has become the tube. Pho is the breakfast of choice. Communication happens mainly through screens, albeit floating holographic screens. Five teen-agers have been assigned to the City Planning Council for a year of public service. Their first assignment is to decide on the future of the Uptown Theatre, a white terra-cotta movie palace that seats four thousand and, in 2211 as in 2017, needs to be adapted into something new. (Regina Spektor filmed her “Black and White” video there.) After a tense meeting, three of them decide to go to see the theatre, and the Uptown neighborhood, for themselves.

“We really want a space to facemeet, instead of screening all the time,” one teen says. “I was wrong to think I could make a planning council decision from up in my apartment,” another says. Will Uptown get the server farm/performance venue it wants, or just more condos? Such is the cliffhanger ending of “No Small Plans,” a just-published graphic novel from the Chicago Architecture Foundation.