Students Win ASLA Award for Bronzeville Jazz Fence


Illinois Tech Master of Landscape Architecture + Urbanism (MLA+U) students Jamie Sun and Yu Si received an Honor Award in the Student Community Service category of the 2018 American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) Student Awards for the design of their Jazz Fence project.

Jazz Fence is a vibrant and colorful design exploration of how to enclose an urban “hurts conclusus” with cultural resonance and construction economy. The project was designed as an independent initiative by the MLA+U program with support from Illinois Tech’s Office of the Provost and Professor and Director of MLA+U Ron Henderson.

“The Jazz Fence is beautifully executed. I love the fabrication; there is a clear historical relationship; there is community service,” stated a 2018 ASLA Awards Jury member. 

Jazz Fence encloses the Bronzeville neighborhood’s new Great Migration Sculpture Garden. Sun and Si designed and built the fence in collaboration with community leaders, construction trades, neighborhood youth, and professional advisers. Jazz Fence was a design investigation of shadows, geometry, and color to augment the sculptural program of the garden, which was constructed on a surplus site donated by the City of Chicago to the city’s south side Bronzeville neighborhood.

“The color differences between the outer layer and the inner layer of Jazz Fence were not only considered from the surrounding condition of the site, but also represent the optimistic spirit of African American people and the poignant history of the Great Migration,” says Sun. “As an important outcome of this migration, the accomplishments in African-American music ushered Chicago into a rich musical legacy of jazz, blues, and gospel. The cut-out panels of Jazz Fence symbolize the notes and melody of the huge impact of the Great Migration.”

The garden illustrates the positive influence that arts and teamwork embody as paths for opportunity for neighborhood youth. Engaging high school students and artists from the community, Jazz Fence was fabricated from cutout shapes of marine-grade plywood, painted, and assembled onsite with leadership by the landscape architecture students. Jazz Fence is a visually striking contribution to a community-engaged project that transformed an abandoned site into a vibrant place for the neighborhood. 

“It was such a unique experience that we could be deeply involved in a real project as students. And in cooperation with owners, artists, and community youth, we learned from different perspectives and consequently, have assimilated these understandings into our design and future life,” Sun says.