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Chicago Architecture Biennial to discuss "The State of the Art of Architecture"

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on October 21, 2015 at 01:27 PM

The inaugural Chicago Architecture Biennial (CAB), opened on 3rd October 2015, as the largest international survey of contemporary architecture taking place in North America. The exhibition which will be hosted across multiple venues in the district including the Chicago Cultural Center, the Millennium Park, Stony Island  Arts Bank, Graham Foundation, Water Tower Gallery, 72E. Randolph, Illinois Institute of Technology and the Museum Campus, will continue till January 3, 2016. 

© Courtesy of Adam Alexander Photography

Mayor Rahm Emanuel welcomed the world to Chicago on 3rd October, 2015 by officially opening the inaugural Chicago Architecture Biennial (CAB), the largest international survey of contemporary architecture taking place in North America. All the selected participants will present their architectural work as part of the Biennial exhibition, which will occupy the Chicago Cultural Center, as well as additional sites across the city: Millennium Park, City Gallery in the Historic Water Tower and 72 E. Randolph. The architects given pride of place include Spain's Andres Jaque, Mexico's Tatiana Bilbao, Denmark's Bjarke Ingels and Japan's Junya Ishigami and Sou Fujimoto. At the opening weekend, visitors also enjoyed Biennial events at the Stony Island Arts Bank on the city’s South Side and other sites throughout the city including the BP Prize-winning “Chicago Horizon” Lakefront Kiosk, neighborhood parks and libraries, universities and museums. 

“The City of Chicago is synonymous with leading architecture, from the world’s first modern skyscrapers to the forefront of urban design, which is why Chicago is naturally suited to host an architectural event of this scale,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “The study and discussion of architecture is engrained in the civic fabric of Chicago, and the first-ever Chicago Architecture Biennial provides a one-of-a-kind opportunity for both seasoned professionals and everyday citizens to enjoy, discuss and critically examine the design that impacts the world in which we live.”

The Chicago Architecture Biennial runs through January 3, 2016, and is free and open to the general public. The inaugural CAB is curated by Joseph Grima and Sarah Herda, and takes its title, “The State of the Art of Architecture,” from a 1977 conference organized by Chicago architect Stanley Tigerman, which invited leading American designers to Chicago to discuss the current state of the field. “We didn’t want to constrain the work with a theme,” says Herda. “We went out into the world and asked architects to tell us what they think matters.” She describes the exhibition as a “site of experimentation – not a place to look at pictures of buildings, but to figure out the future of making buildings.” The organizers have organized the Chicago Biennial very much in dialogue with and opposition to the Venice Biennale: It will run on odd years to sync with the Italian show's opening on even ones.

One of the many exhibits in the Chicago Cultural Center is called “Bold: Alternative Scenarios for Chicago” and features 18 projects and ideas for the city of Chicago. Elsewhere in the Chicago Cultural Center is full-scale house that can be built for less than $4000, by the Vietnamese architecture office Vo TrongNghia Architects; and the Swiss-based office Gramazio Kohler has collaborated with the MIT Self-Assembly Lab to make the first architectural construction built by robots using only rocks and thread. The architects are ambiguous about what practical application this might have, but their column is a standout itself – and will be even more so when it is unravelled into a heap at the end of the exhibition, with a single tug on the string.


Highlights include a full-scale prototype of a $9,000 house developed by Mexican architect Tatiana Bilbao, designed to let residents extend a basic shell, with a solid central core that can be expanded in phases with lighter-weight materials. Aimed at addressing America’s shortage of nine million homes, the model provides an alternative to state-built housing, built for the same budget, and it’s already being trialed across three different cities. Lacaton & Vassal’s remarkable work breathing new life into dilapidated council estates in France, through intelligent remodelling, is shown in a series of films of residents’ daily lives in their new homes. The sensitivity and economy of their work contains important lessons for estate regeneration around the world, their projects achieved at a fraction of the cost of the usual process of demolition and rebuilding.

The skewed economics of housing are also brought into sharp focus by the work of Cape Town architect Jo Noero, who uses luxury clifftop villa commissions to subsidise work on community housing projects in impoverished townships. The stark contrast is shown in two models, presented side by side, in a powerful representation of South Africa’s persistent inequality. The biennial also sponsored a competition for a series of small pavilions along Lake Michigan. One of these is a combination of cross-laminated timber and chain link, a distillation of various influences, by the Rhode Island firm Ultramoderne.

There are also several performance pieces organized by the architects Jaque and Bryony Roberts and the artist Santiago Borja. Jaque mounted a sharply political tribute to "Powers of Ten," the famous 1977 short film about perspective and scale by Charles and Ray Eames. Roberts worked to fill Federal Plaza, a public space in the Loop overlooked by Mies buildings, with performances choreographed by Asher Waldron.


The list of 40 participating international studios was picked up by Biennial Co-Artistic Directors Joseph Grima and Sarah Herda - who are supported by an advisory council comprising David Adjaye, Elizabeth Diller, Jeanne Gang, Frank Gehry, Sylvia Lavin, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Peter Palumbo, and Stanley Tigerman - each participating practice is discussing "The State of the Art of Architecture". 

Designer : N/A
Photography :Tom Harris & Steve Hall (Chicago Architecture Biennial)

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