Paola Aguirre Serrano

2022 Honoree - Jorge and Darlene Pérez Prize in Public Art & Civic Design

I am truly honored and grateful to receive the Jorge and Darlene Pérez Prize in Public Art & Civic Design. Thank you, Americans for the Arts and the jury, for seeing me and my work. For those who know me personally or professionally, you know how much I value and breathe collective work and community service and care - ultimately, how I practice design fueled by the idea of civic love.

These past two year have definitely tested our capacity and values in multiple levels – our capacity of resilience and adaptability in our design practices, but also our values such as generosity, compassion and solidarity responding to the incredibly overdue demands for racial justice, and the need to respond to the inequities that our communities have endured for so long. These past two years will be without a doubt a milestone in our different journeys, particularly at a time when we had to constantly imagine what recovery and healing look like. I’m ready to continue imagining through design this journey in community - and this award definitely brings a wonderful boost of energy while reinforcing my commitment to this work.

With gratitude,

—Paola Aguirre Serrano


Paola Aguirre Serrano is an urban designer and partner at BORDERLESS — design and research practice focused on cultivating collaborative design agency through interdisciplinary projects based in Chicago and San Antonio. With emphasis on exchange and communication across disciplines, Borderless explores creative civic design and engagement interventions that address the complexity of urban systems and social equity by looking at intersections between architecture, urban design, infrastructure, landscape, planning and community participatory processes. Paola is an active educator, and has taught at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Sam Fox School of Design at Washington University in St. Louis, and the Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture and Design in Columbus, IN.  She has been acknowledged by Next City Vanguard’s 40 Under 40 (2016), Impact Design Hub’s 40 Under 40 (2017), Newcity Design 50: Who Shapes Chicago (2018, 2020), Emerging Planner Award by the American Planning Association – Illinois Chapter (2018), Field Foundation Civic Leader for Racial Equity (2019), Chicago United for Equity Fellow (2019), AIA Chicago’s Distinguished Service Award (2020), and The Architecture League of New York Emerging Voices Award (2022). Paola has served as Commissioner of Chicago Landmarks and the Cultural Advisory Council of the City of Chicago, and currently serves in the Scholarly Advisory Committee for the National Museum of the American Latino. Paola received a B. of Architecture from the Institute Superior de Arquitectura y Diseño de Chihuahua, and M. of Architecture in Urban Design from the Harvard School of Design.


Young people circled around a table full of small, plastic houses in various shades of red and orange.

“Buena Vida Choice Neighborhood Plan”. Illustration of Revitalized Housing Development in Brownsville, TX Year, 2017. Partnered with Adam Rosa (Collabo/formerly at Camiros Ltd.).

Visioning community workshops for the redevelopment of the Buena Vida housing located in Project led by the Housing Authority of the City of Brownsville and the City of Brownsville

Image credit: Paola Aguirre

A group of people circled around on a concrete surface; many of the participants are seated on the ground.

“Creative Grounds @ Overton”, a community workshop in Chicago, IL, 2017.

Community workshop at Overton school as part of “Opening Closings” event - the first collective activation by Creative Grounds in collaboration with Chicago Arts Partnership in Education (CAPE).

Photo credit: Borderless Studio

An arial shot of a map of Chicago and its neighborhoods outlined on concrete.

“Chicago Extra-Large”, a map installation (dimensions: 90’x120’) in Chicago, IL (Bronzeville), 2017-18.

Large-scale map installation at the parking lot of former Overton Elementary School in Bronzeville. Map of Chicago’s neighborhoods highlighting communities in the Southside and the list of public schools that closed in 2013.

Photo credit: Ben Kolak

An arial shot of a map of the Bronzeville neighborhood, colored in purples and greens.

“Bronzeville (+) Plus / Climate + Cultural Resilience”, a map installation (dimensions: 70’x120’) in Chicago, IL (Bronzeville), 2019-2020.

Large-scale map installation of Bronzeville neighborhood showcasing urban watersheds and color-coded by their percentage of permeability. This project was a collaborative learning tool about flooding and green infrastructure.

Photo credit: Brandon Biederman

Young people playing basketball on a court covered in lively colors. 'Equitable Access' is written on a wall behind them.

“Basketball (Art) Court “Meet me in the Middle””, a collaborative art project as part of Creative Grounds @Overton in Chicago, IL, 2021.

Community Day @ Overton and reveal of the Basketball (Art) Court project collaboratively created by artists, students, and neighbors. Artwork by Jade Foreman in collaboration with Designers-in-Residence Ru Levy and Gordon Johnson.

Photo credit: Sandra Steinbrecher

2022 Jury

Review Panel and Finalist Selection Jury:

  • Anyka Howard, Founder/Director/Curator, Betti Ono Gallery
  • Patti Hanna, Art Director, Related Group | El Espacio 23
  • Marian Liou, Community Engagement and Arts Manager, Community Development Group, Atlanta Regional Commission
  • Ben Stone, Director of Arts & Culture, Smart Growth America (Review Panel Only)
  • Patricia Walsh, Director of Creative Community Advancement, Americans for the Arts