Little Chicago is about the everyday environment of children living in public high rise buildings. I’ve portrayed a neighbourhood called Europark: a public housing estate consisting of 18 high rise buildings on the river’s leftbank in Antwerp, Belgium. One of Europark’s buildings is the iconic ‘Chicagoblock’; this residential tower from 1970 has 25 floors and houses 800 people, including 400 children. For years this block symbolised every possible problem associated with public housing estates: crime, vandalism, littering and the clash between different cultures. Nowadays society is investing funds and effort in this neighbourhood, in social projects especially.

The question that drives me is how kids grow up here, in- and outside the walls of their compact flats. How important are the youth club, the homework class and the art workshop to them? How do they experience their friendships? What are their doubts, their expectations, their dreams? 

The drawings in this project are portraits made by the children in the drawing workshop. I also photographed a couple of maquettes; these are made by the children as well and they represent their dream houses. By incorporating these drawings and maquettes into the project I feel we’ve turned it into a close collaboration between the kids and me. I’m no longer just an onlooker; for almost a year I was part of their world.