Latent Design is a progressive Chicago based architecture firm working at the intersection of design and community development to create social, economic and environmental impact. We define the context surrounding a project before we design the content of architecture. We offer innovative design solutions to those in resource and budget limited environments through a participatory approach that leverages local assets to directly generate project opportunities. Our collaborations range from small-scale tactical interventions, new construction community buildings, adaptive reuse, neighborhood master plans and design speculations. 

If you are interested in leveraging your project for greater impact, contact us.

Latent Design is a registered Benefit Corporation in the State of Illinois. The firm has architecture licenses in Illinois and Wisconsin with NCARB certification to support reciprocity in other states and maintains international alliances for global work. Latent Design is a Minority and Women Owned Business.


Latent Design conceives dialogue-based sustainable living solutions by combining contemporary sustainable architectural and urban issues with stakeholders' involvement. Our highly collaborative user focused design method engages end users in the creative process from the early project phases, along with experts from different fields, clients and stakeholders.

Latent Design takes a pivotal role in this process by mapping out existing situations and agendas, outlining possible scenarios, processing and working in stakeholders' feedback, and translating the outcome into clear-cut concepts. The concepts provide a basis for beneficial relationships between the project stakeholders, and shape an interactive space of dialog and evolution. Incorporating the functional and emotional ethos of the end users into the project from the initial stages provides unique insights and leads to specific, innovative solutions.

The results of this all-inclusive intensive approach are extremely diverse, ranging from buildings to objects and urban designs that activate and motivate to new forms of community, usage and interaction between architecture and users. Diversity, needs and potentials stimulate the process of transformation into radical solutions, which provide sustainability as an integrated part of the final architectural and urban design.

Past project include temporary popup shops, creative corridor master planning and development, urban interventions, guerilla gardening, academic curriculum development, neighborhood branding and identity.



Architect and educator Katherine Darnstadt is the founder and principal of Latent Design, a collaborative of individuals whose projects focus on social, economic and environmental impact beyond the building. Katherine brings innovative design to those in resource and budget limited environments through a holistic, creative approach to design driven by community needs that leverages other partners and assets to address project challenges. Her passion for public interest design through participatory strategies and diverse background have allowed her to collaborate with change agents in design, science, arts and philosophy. Since founding her practice in 2010, Katherine and her firm have been recognized as an emerging leader in the architecture profession and have been published, exhibited and featured widely, most notably at the International Venice Biennale, Core 77 Design Awards, Architizer A+ Awards, Chicago Ideas Week, NPR, and as the 2013 American Institute of Architects Young Architects Honor Award winner.

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Thank you to the amazing people who have contributed to developing our projects and process over the years:

Nicolas Anderson, Shafaq Choudry, Vea Cleary, Terrance Hector, Taylor Holloway, Kulsum Ishrati, Melanie Kahl, Richard Kasemsarn, Tina Kress, Skylar Moran, Kristen Moreau, Debbie Morris, Marta Rivas Muro, Rahman Polk, Lester Scaife, April Soetarman, Ava St. Claire, Florence Twu, and Itzi Velazquez.


2014 Crain's Chicago 40 Under 40
2014 Design Futures Council DuPont Emerging Leader Fellow
2014 GOOD Magazine 100 Social Impact Visionaries
2013 AIA National Young Architects Honor Award
2013 Architizer A+ Jury Award for “Architecture + Farming”
2012 Core 77 Award for “Food Design”
2012 AIA Illinois "Buckminster Fuller" Honor Award
2012 Illinois Institute of Technology "Young Alumnus Award"
2012 Engineering News Report “20 Under 40”
2012 SEED Honorable Mention
2011 i4design Emerging Leader Award for “The Altruist”
2010 U.S. Green Building Council "Emerging Leader" Award
2010 AIA Chicago "Bridge" Fellow

2012 Design Like You Give A Damn 2
2012 Soiled 03, Platescrapers
2012 Crains Chicago Business, Giving Guide
2012 Soiled 03, Platescrapers
2011 Soiled 01, Skinscrapers
2010 AREA Chicago, Infrastructures and Institutions
2010 U.S. Green Building Council, Diversity and Inclusion Guidelines

2013 AIAS Forum New Year's Eve Keynote "Resolution"
2013 AIA Greenville "Pardon Me, I Am Trying To Get Your Attention"
2013 AIGA Chicago Annual Meeting “Social Design”
2013 Chicago Women In Architecture “Public Interest Architecture in Practice”
2012 AIA Illinois Leadership Institute
2011 Chicago Ideas Week “Designing Public Space” 
2011 Structures for Inclusion 10+1 “Here and There”
2010 Pecha Kucha Chicago “Dirty Talk: Soil as a Pedagogical Model”

2013 Spontaneous Interventions Chicago
2012 Venice Biennale American Pavilion “Spontaneous Interventions” 
2012 Structures for Inclusion 12, “SEED” Honorable Mention
2011 Philadelphia Center for Architecture “Design in Action” 
2011 Structures for Inclusion 10+1