Keefer Dunn

“Social architecture is architecture that keeps people's hopes alive.”
Dinner Date: November 10, 2019
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Our Chicago team headed to Bridgeport in November for an evening with architect, educator, organizer and local radio celebrity Keefer Dunn. We were excited to welcome familiar faces from previous dinners along with some new guests to Keefer’s apartment near Guaranteed Rate Field, home of the Chicago White Sox, where he and his partner Marianela, writer and DSA organizer, have set up shop.

The cohort enjoyed cold beers and introductions while touring through the collections of books, records and furniture on display throughout the flat, itself an immaculate wood-lacquered portal to early-20th century South Side Chicago.

We dispersed the chopsticks and enjoyed a selection of northern Chinese delicacies from nearby Potsticker House. Guests took their seats around Keefer and Marianela’s massive dining table which was acquired along with the set of 10 chairs from an antique hotspot in northern Indiana famous for Rust Belt barn finds and other one-off mid-century modern artifacts.

Always eager for discourse, Keefer took as a starting provocation the proposed Green New Deal, linking our guests’ comments into a well-articulated vision of the architect’s role in building a sustainable and equitable future.  Our conversation examined key questions of contemporary architectural practice through a critical framework. Why are some architectural workers paid far too much while others receive far too little? How can architects empower themselves to refuse ethically-specious projects?

Two hours quickly disappeared, along with most of the shredded pork and dumplings, as guests challenged themselves and each other to speak on the existential questions that underpin design work. As the evening grew late, Keefer proffered his cautious optimism for new ways of synthesizing architectural production with social transformation. In true Bridgeport spirit, the Malort was pulled from the shelf for an optional nightcap. Our guests one by one departed with new ideas, full bellies and a suggested list for further reading.