Metra train tracks run at ground level through the Chicago South Side neighborhood of South Shore, where Dawveed Scully (ARCH ’10) spent his early years. An urban designer and associate director at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), and an adjunct instructor in architecture at Illinois Institute of Technology, the 36-year-old Scully recalls the boundary that the tracks created at 71st Street and Ridgeland Avenue, and within the realm of his childhood, a dividing line he opted not to cross.
“Urban spaces contribute to both physical and perceived boundaries,” Scully says. “There is a sense of barriers and thresholds and places that you don’t go due to infrastructure. Going to the other side of 71st Street is something that I barely remember doing. Those physical infrastructure barriers really sort of frame a territory, especially when you’re small and you have these big double-decker trains. I just remember being like, ‘I’m not going over there.’”
It would be some time before Scully understood how practices like redlining—a term that describes discrimination in housing for certain areas that are considered to be poor economic risks—shaped the planning and development of neighborhoods like South Shore.
“These barriers and spaces that I knew as normal, [I later] learned that they were designed conditions and policies,” he says. “[I came to understand] the role of design and planning in creating those places. A key thing that drives me as a designer is reimagining what these places could be by addressing historic inequities and barriers—imagining what a place can be if we amplified communities through design and made more just and equitable places.”
As a child, Scully had a natural curiosity with how things worked and learned to balance that with youthful creativity. He enjoyed drawing and storytelling, building with LEGOs, dismantling his Sega Genesis to understand how it was made, and playing basketball with other kids in a vacant lot next door to his house.
While he was a student at Morgan Park High School, Scully began taking drafting classes, which ignited his interest in architecture. By the time he graduated, he had won an internship with Lohan Caprile Goettsch Architects (now Goettsch Partners) through the annual Newhouse Architecture and Design Competition run by the Chicago Architecture Center.
“That was really formative, being able to actually be [at Lohan],” Scully says. “They were doing the Soldier Field renovation at that time. It was just a really great environment to be a first step [in my career]. I got to participate and do drawings, and use AutoCAD and 3D modeling. It was a really great experience to get before going to school for [architecture].”
During college, Scully developed a strong interest in urban planning and urban design, and landed an internship at SOM, where over the next 13 years he ascended the ranks, first by being hired on full-time as a junior urban designer in April 2011.
In his 13 years at SOM, Scully has worked on projects in London, China, the Middle East, Europe, and South America, as well as in a number of cities in the United States, including Detroit; Atlanta; Nashville, Tennessee; Milwaukee; and Chicago and its surrounding suburbs.
“I definitely enjoy working on the South Side [of Chicago] because I grew up here,” Scully says, “but it’s equally as interesting to go to the West Side, to go to the suburbs, to go to other cities—places that have had these sort of historic inequities—and try to figure out ways to create plans and designs that impact public policy and bring community voices forward.”
In Chicago, one project in particular has evolved alongside Scully: the former Michael Reese Hospital site in Bronzeville. The hospital closed in 2009, and in the same year demolition of the buildings on the hospital’s campus began. Scully first worked on designs to repurpose the site as an intern with SOM, when the City of Chicago purchased the location as part of its bid to host the 2016 Olympics. (The site would have become the athlete’s village.)
When the city lost the bid, it went through various efforts to reimagine what the space could be, landing on plans to repurpose it into a mixed-use development known as Bronzeville Lakefront. Knowing that Michael Reese Hospital had once been a fixture in Bronzeville and a major source of jobs, Scully and his colleagues set their sights high.
“A lot of anchors on the South Side are gone and have not been recovered,” he says. “How do we create something that becomes that anchor that allows folks to be able to work in their own community and not have to drive an hour or have to get downtown?”
Scully is serving as lead designer for the Bronzeville Lakefront project, “setting the rules for what the design could be on rezoning, and putting that into the legal framework,” he says. A large portion of Scully’s role has also been to serve as a bridge between the client team and the community. The goal is to preserve the spirit and history of Bronzeville through the new development.
“A lot of buildings and old jazz clubs have been torn down,” he says. “We’re interested in bringing those stories to the forefront, bringing a tax base and jobs and catalyzing development in an ethical way—development that will allow folks to springboard. I think it could have a very positive impact in the neighborhood overall.”
Tiara Hughes is a close friend of Scully’s in addition to being his colleague at SOM, where she works as a senior urban designer and collaborates on many projects with Scully.
“Dawveed is selfless and a force,” says Hughes, who credits Scully with helping her land a job with the firm. “He makes moves and changes. I have a successful career as a black woman in SOM in urban design, and it’s thanks to him. He is a joy and a great mentor and friend.”
Today, Scully lives in the South Side neighborhood of Woodlawn. He has a number of career accolades under his belt, including being a Leadership Greater Chicago fellow since 2021, being recognized by Crain’s Chicago Business as one of 40 Under Forty in 2020, receiving the Urban Land Institute’s 2018 Young Visionary Award, serving on Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s mayoral transition team, and more.
His focus, as he looks to the future, is to continue to bring positive change to communities through better urban design.
“We have often underestimated the impact [of urban design] on people’s lives,” Scully says. “We all take expressways, but expressways used to be neighborhoods, and [I want to continue] thinking about those impacts on a city and continue to think about those big ideas.”●
This winter, developers will break ground on a massive redevelopment effort to turn the Michael Reese Hospital site into Bronzeville Lakefront, a 100-plus acre “mixed-use health innovation district” and “global hub for innovation and wellness,” according to the development’s website. Dawveed Scully is the lead designer on the project, and his firm, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), is the lead master planner on the project as well as the architect of the 500,000-square-foot Chicago ARC Innovation Center, the first new building slated to be built on the site. The ARC Innovation Center will house retail space, a community center, and a new branch of Israel’s acclaimed Sheba Medical Center, known for its commitment to equitable access to health care. The Bronzeville practice will be Sheba’s first center located outside of Israel itself.
Scully and his colleagues talk about the project as having a “20-year horizon” due to its size, though he says it may move a little faster than that. SOM is supporting the infrastructure team to realize the master plan vision and reconnect the site to the community. Phase one, focused on the south end of the property, will cost $600 million and is scheduled to be complete by 2026, including completion of the ARC Innovation Center. A mixed-income senior housing building and a new park are also part of phase one, as is the reuse of Singer Pavilion, the only building from Michael Reese Hospital that will be preserved.