Raymond Hilliard Homes

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  • View to northeast showing Hilliard Complex. (Orlando R. Cabanban photo, n.d.) View to northeast showing Hilliard Complex. (Orlando R. Cabanban photo, n.d.)
  • Boy on bicycle in front of elderly apartment tower. Boy on bicycle in front of elderly apartment tower.
  • Conceptual floor plan. Conceptual floor plan.
  • Family housing 2 & 3 bedroom apartment floor plan. Family housing 2 & 3 bedroom apartment floor plan.
  • Typical elderly apartment unit. Typical elderly apartment unit.
  • Hilliard Homes site plan. Hilliard Homes site plan.
  • Family housing floor plan. Family housing floor plan.

The architecture gave a message that we were building a community, we respected a humanism which that community wanted or deserved, and we simply weren’t storing people, which has been the general message of unsuccessful public housing.- Oral History

The Raymond Hilliard Homes (also called Center) was a Chicago Housing Authority complex located on the near south side of Chicago, containing two 16-story round towers for elderly housing and two 18-story curved towers for low-income family housing. Supporting 756 dwelling units, the complex included lawns, playgrounds, and an open air theater. It has since been renovated by the private sector and converted to mixed-income housing, still with a significant lower income population. It is also now listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1997, recognized for exceptional design.

Unlike Marina City, which was largely supported by its core, Hilliard Homes was supported by its exterior structure, what Goldberg called a "shell structure." As Goldberg described it, "an eggshell is more efficient than a tree." In the core he placed the usual mechanical systems and also a community space, because he felt that this was important for the elderly and also hoped that by designing a complex for both the young and old that the elderly could bring their wisdom experience to the younger groups and the elderly would also benefit from their interaction with the young.

Meant as a new solution to public housing woes, Raymond Hilliard was built to be a structure which residents would be proud to live in. Goldberg felt that much public-housing was designed in such a way to make the poor feel that they were punished for being poor and did little other than warehouse them. As stated by Goldberg in a 1965 promotional piece, "their architecture must meet them and recognize them, not simply store them." Residents were chosen from records of model citizenry in other housing projects, and for many years this was the only public housing complex which needed no constant police supervision. The unusual tower shapes maximized the space allowed by Public Housing Authority standards while creating a sense of community and openness.

QUOTE: "The revolutionary design theories that Goldberg developed for Marina City were applied here to the problem of public housing, creating what is still regarded as one of the city's best examples of humane high-rise living for low-income families."
- AIA Guide to Chicago