Posts tagged with "Chicago Architecture Biennial":

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Johnston Marklee selected to design permanent home for Philadelphia Contemporary

The Philadelphia Contemporary, which up till now has been an itinerant “curatorial institution,” bridging art, performance, and spoken word with various pop-ups and events around its namesake city, is getting a permanent physical home by Los Angeles firm Johnston Marklee. The firm, whose partners Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee artistic directed the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial, have worked on a slew of cultural institutions as of late including the recent Menil Drawing Institute in Houston, which opens next week. Following on its nomadic beginnings, the new kunsthalle will be, as Lee puts it, “inextricably woven into the fabric of the city.” The Philadelphia Contemporary, sans building, has programmed cultural events across the city over the past two years, including an ASMR Film Festival, as part of its two week Festival for the People, an arts event that happened over the past two weekends and featured an impressive array of artists, performers, poets, and others from Philly and around the world, including Hito Steyerl, Andrea Bowers, and Lyrispect. The festival also featured selections from Creative Time’s Pledges of Allegiance, which is a series of 16 flags by a number of artists including Jayson Musson, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Tania Bruguera, and Rirkrit Tiravanija. Creative Time’s former chief curator, Nato Thompson, has been serving as the Philadelphia Contemporary’s artistic director.   Johnston Marklee was chosen after an extensive search by a 14-member jury comprising representatives from the Philadelphia Contemporary, as well as city officials, members of the arts, design, and literary community, and other local community members. Johnston Marklee will be working with local MGA Partners, the architect of record. The final building design is to be revealed in 2019.
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What will be Rahm Emanuel’s legacy on Chicago’s architecture?

On the eve of the beginning of the trial for Jason Van Dyke, the Chicago police officer charged with (and since convicted of) killing Laquan McDonald, Rahm Emanuel, two-term Chicago mayor, announced that he would not be running for a third term. Citing the need to spend more time with his family, Mayor Emanuel tearfully lamented of his time as mayor: “This has been the job of a lifetime, but it is not a job for a lifetime.” Yet, for Chicagoans, Emanuel’s two terms feel like enough to fill multiple lifetimes, both with development projects and architectural optimism, as well as what he will likely be known for: the decision to close 50 neighborhood public schools in 2013, many of which sit vacant and unsold five years later. Under his watch, Chicago became an infrastructure and design-driven cultural hub, with the first iteration of the Chicago Architecture Biennial, the Chicago Riverwalk, the 606, and the maturation of Millennium Park into a legitimate tourist destination. Emanuel appeared on broadcast television to proclaim that Chicago was a “Trump-free zone,” yet the president’s name is saliently plastered to the side of a skyscraper in 20-foot-tall letters, a blunder approved by the zoning administrator and the alderman, catching the mayor’s attention only after an architectural outcry. A former chief of staff to President Barack Obama, Emanuel would work hard on the national stage to present himself as the antithesis of Donald Trump yet kept largely quiet about it at home. There was the risible focus on assisting Elon Musk with his rapid transit link to O’Hare Airport, and the sideshow-style hawking of sites for Amazon’s HQ2. Then there were the bombastic press releases, the development of Lincoln Yards, the 78-acre mega-development, and the promise that Chicago would deliver the Obama Presidential Center to Jackson Park. Yet among all of these high-profile projects, Emanuel seemed to love the glamour of developer-driven neighborhood projects most of all. The Transit Oriented Development (TOD) Ordinance of 2015 supercharged the construction of bigger, denser residential buildings along Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) lines, changing the architectural character of some neighborhoods and flushing each neighborhood with micro apartments of questionable affordability and access. The Tax Increment Financing (TIF) program provided surges of cash to neighborhoods but seemed woefully out of touch with its original intent—to subsidize development in underserved neighborhoods—when funds were used to renovate downtown’s Navy Pier. With regard to Chicago’s historic built environment, Emanuel has made a lot of lofty promises that will be tough for the next mayor to fulfill. In 2017 he announced that he would encourage landmark status for the Legacy Walk in Boystown, a half-mile-long outdoor LGBT history exhibit constructed in 1998, which could be a hard sell to the city council due to its newness and obvious political motivations, as the announcement was made during Chicago Pride. While this could be considered a radical move, older, more vulnerable landmarks of cultural heritage, like sites that assist in telling the narrative of the Black Panther Party in Chicago, have yet to be considered for landmarking. Last year, Emanuel also announced that he would block the sale of the postmodern James R. Thompson Center by the State of Illinois out of fear of having to replace the CTA station beneath it but will not take a stance otherwise on the future of the building or its architectural significance. Attempts to restore the perennially threatened Uptown Theatre have stalled and sputtered under Emanuel’s tenure, including the creation of a nonprofit in 2011 to back a public-private partnership to lead the renovation, which ultimately failed. This past summer, Emanuel announced yet again that the Uptown would be restored using a combination of TIF funds and private investment, handing the responsibility to whoever is elected in February of 2019. Emanuel thought big, but also blew it big, and the success of his ideas and the legacy of his failures lie on the shoulders of the next administration, which may take a different direction entirely—perhaps toward neighborhood-led initiatives and on a smaller scale, working to improve parts of the whole—or continue to champion grandiose civic projects. The announcement that Emanuel will not seek a third term scrambles an already crowded field of candidates and piques the interest of new contenders who now believe that they have a shot at defining how Chicago presents itself in the 21st century. We will see how a new mayor designs it, builds it, and tears it down.
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Chicago Architecture Biennial appoints Sepake Angiama and Paulo Tavares as 2019 co-curators

The Chicago Architecture Biennial has selected two co-curators for its 2019 program, educator and curator Sepake Angiama, and architect and urbanist Paulo Tavares. Along with creative director Yesomi Umolu, Angiama and Tavares will round out the curatorial team of the Biennials’ third installment, launching in September 2019 and running through January 2020. An educator based in Europe, Sepake Angiama’s work investigates the relationship between art, education and place. Angiama recently served as Head of Education for Documenta 14, where she initiated a work titled Under the Mango Tree: Sites of Learning in cooperation with the Institut fur Auslandsbezieghugen, a project that gathers artist-lead social spaces, libraries and schools and unfolds discourses around decolonizing educational practices. Paulo Tavares is an architect based in Brasilia, where he serves as professor at the Faculdade de Arquitetura e Urbanismo, University of Brasilia.  In 2017, Tavares created the Agency Autonoma, a platform dedicated to urban research and intervention.  Tavares’ work is concerned with conflict and space as they intersect with cities, territories and ecologies.  Tavares is a 2017 Graham Foundation grantee. Both co-curators have research-based practices that look thoughtfully at how the built environment relates to social structures on an international scale, factors that will undoubtedly contribute to defining the theme of the 2019 Chicago Architecture Biennial, to be announced later this fall.  A Chicago-based curator with a background in architectural design and curatorial practices, Yesomi Umolu was announced as creative director of the Biennial in March.  This is the first time in the Biennial’s history that the program has selected one creative director and two co-curators. For the third year, the 2019 Chicago Architecture Biennial will provide a platform for spatial experiments and architectural practices that demonstrate how innovation and creativity can better our lived experience, with its intersectional exhibits radiating across Chicago from the program’s home base at the Chicago Cultural Center.  The opening of the 2019 Biennial will align with EXPO CHICAGO, the international Exposition of Contemporary and Modern Art. “I am thrilled that Sepake Angiama and Paulo Taveres are joining me to steward the curatorial direction of the 2019 Chicago Architectural Biennial” said Umolu in a press release. “Sepake and Paulo will broaden the range of ideas and practices at the Biennial.”
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Looking toward the next Chicago Architecture Biennial with Yesomi Umolu

Chicago-based curator and writer Yesomi Umolu will curate the 2019 Chicago Architecture Biennial. Her unique combination of experience in architectural design and curatorial practice will give her a refreshing take on the program, which has served as a barometer for what is happening in the U.S. and abroad.  The Architect’s Newspaper: What is your background, and what brought you to the Chicago Biennial? Yesomi Umolu: So my background is in architectural design. I studied it and I worked in practice for a couple of years in the U.K. at Grimshaw, which is a big high-tech practice, and then at a smaller practice called Haworth Tompkins, doing a lot of collaborations with artists, including Dan Graham with his Waterloo Sunset Pavilion at the Hayward Gallery in London. I was working on projects that represented my passion for the arts. Eventually, I went on to curating contemporary art, but kept my foot in the architecture world through my network. I think the types of narratives and discourses that I was interested in were more related to spatial practices and how both architects and artists were dealing with those issues. What brought you to Chicago? I got a job as exhibitions curator at the Logan Center for the Arts at the University of Chicago. So I’ve been in the U.S. for about seven years. I was at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis before that, and then at the Broad Art Museum at Michigan State in East Lansing. I’ve worked in really nice buildings: Herzog & De Meuron [at the Walker] and then Zaha Hadid [at the Broad], and now Todd Williams and Billie Tsien [at the Logan Center]. So I have been lucky to be surrounded by good architecture.   In transitioning from practice to curation, where would you find yourself in relation to the last two Biennials? I would come at it by thinking about space as an inherently political medium and exploring the way in which we make spaces. Spaces are not necessarily neutral things; there are power dynamics at play. Then there are the different sorts of audiences and visitors to those spaces. The critic Jane Rendell coined the term “critical spatial practice,” which was about how one makes spaces and thinks about the politics behind them. She particularly wrote about the relationship between art and architecture, and how architects had a role to play—not just in the building of cultural buildings, but in the formation of cultural spaces, and that their skills could be lent to those spaces as well. Today there are people like Shumon Basar, Eyal Weizman, and other artists who have taken up the helm. I worked with Brad Butler and Karen Mirza, who are in the Weizman architecture school of thought in London, as well as a whole host of others. So that’s where I would kind of situate myself. Broadly speaking, my work has always been interested in questions of globalization, which of course have a spatial articulation to them as well, whether it’s thinking about the flows of people, resources, or money, and how that affects the spaces in which we live and work.   So it sounds like there will be some continuity with the last two Biennials. Yeah, exactly. So I think that’s what I can bring to the table: my particular interest in the Global South and also maybe greater access to it as well. So what can we expect in 2019 at the third CAB? Instead of having an idea and just having people funnel into that, I want to create the best team that’s going to help establish a very rigorous conversation through a project of R&D for the next three to six months or so, and a curatorial idea will follow. The role that arts and culture play is obviously something I’m going to be very, very interested in. Secondly, with the Biennial, obviously the last two editions have had folks that have been super embedded in the discipline, whereas it’s nice to have an individual such as myself who has roots in the discipline but can come at it from a slight tangent. I think how we define public space is really important right now—how to redefine participation in public space, and how arts or architecture can be leveraged to encourage more public participation. I’m also really interested in that, thinking about how architecture is communicated from the space of school to the space of practice. I can’t say for sure that it’s going to be like X, but these are my interest areas. What are some of the shows you have curated that might give insight into your thoughts and process?       I did a show recently with two Brazilian artists: an artist called Cinthia Marcelle and a filmmaker called Tiago Mata Machado. They’ve been working together for the last five to seven years doing a series of beautiful minimalist videos that look at the social space in Brazil and raise questions of revolution and chaos. These films usually focus on a specific piece of urban fabric or furniture, and then they orchestrate a series of pseudo-performances around that. So we did a show with them this last September that brought together these four video pieces. I think that resonates in terms of thinking about public space, and again, agency, collectivities, and how space can be activated through either political protest or revolution. Also, I did a show recently with Kapwani Kiwanga, who is a Paris-based Canadian artist with a background in comparative religions and ethnography. So she usually mines in a particular history and particular archives and then creates from that. And she was looking at the histories of disciplinary spaces across the world and their sort of legacies and how they affect human behavior and perception. This interview will appear in the upcoming issue 10 of AN Interior. 
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Harvard GSD appoints Mark Lee as new chair of architecture

Architect and professor Mark Lee has been appointed as the next chair of the Architecture Department at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design (GSD), effective July 1. Lee has taught as a design critic at GSD since 2013 and brings years of real-world experience to the post, having co-founded the practice Johnston Marklee in 1998 and served as co-artistic director of the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial. “I am honored to be entrusted with the chairmanship of the Department of Architecture at the GSD,” said Lee in a statement. “In advancing both the discipline and the profession of architecture, the Department has been without parallel; I look forward to building upon the formidable achievements of my predecessors and this deeply-rooted tradition of excellence. We stand on the threshold of a very challenging, but exciting, future. I feel confident that architecture’s best days lie ahead.” Johnston Marklee has been recognized both domestically and abroad and realized projects of every scale and type in seven countries. The firm’s current projects include the renovation of the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, which opened in September 2017, the new UCLA Graduate Art Studios campus in Culver City, California, and the Menil Drawing Institute in Houston, to be completed sometime this year. Lee will succeed K. Michael Hays, who has served as the interim chair since 2016 and taught at Harvard GSD since 1988. Lee’s appointment comes shortly after a $15 million donation to the GSD by Druker Company President Ronald Druker, and follows the appointment of Jeanne Gang and Lee’s partner at Johnston Marklee, Sharon Johnston. Lee himself earned a Master’s in Architecture from the GSD in 1995. “I am delighted that Mark Lee has agreed to serve as the next Chair of the Department of Architecture,” said Mohsen Mostafavi, Dean and Alexander and Victoria Wiley Professor of Design at Harvard GSD, in a statement. “Johnston Marklee is one of the most talented practices currently working in the United States and beyond, and Mark deeply understands the contemporary world of architecture. His vision and leadership will enormously benefit our students and our School in the years to come. As we welcome Mark to this role, I am also incredibly grateful to Michael Hays for his unwavering and ongoing dedication to the Department of Architecture and the GSD.”
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2019 Chicago Architecture Biennial appoints Yesomi Umolu as artistic director

Hot off the closing of a sometimes controversial Chicago Architecture Biennial (CAB) that still drew nearly 550,000 visitors, CAB leaders and Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel have announced that Yesomi Umolu has been chosen as the artistic director for the 2019 Biennial. The 2019 Biennial, now in its third iteration, will run from September 19, 2019 through January 5, 2020. A committee comprised of Chicago Architecture Biennial board members and past artistic directors considered candidates from around the world and from a variety of disciplines ultimately selected Umolu for this year's biennial. “Yesomi is a visionary curator with strong roots in Chicago, and she will work tirelessly to cultivate an incredible cultural, educational, and economic event for the city,” said Mayor Emanuel in a statement sent to AN. “With Yesomi at the helm, the third Chicago Architecture Biennial is sure to secure its reputation as the most innovative architectural, art, and design showcase of its kind.” Umolu is a Chicago-based writer and curator with a background in architectural design and curatorial studies and a focus on global contemporary art and spatial practices, whose work frequently explores the political nature of the built environment. Umolu will formalize and gather an international curatorial team of practitioners with strong knowledge of architecture, visual arts, and design practices globally in the coming months. The members of the curatorial team will be announced this spring. The move is a natural one for Umolu, who also serves as the Exhibitions Curator at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts at the University of Chicago. “I am honored to be invited to serve as Artistic Director of the 2019 Chicago Architecture Biennial,” said Umolu in a statement. “Having my roots in the field of architecture, spatial questions have always been an important consideration of my work with contemporary artists, architects, and urbanists from across the world. I am excited to embark on the journey of engaging the city of Chicago and it publics, as well as visitors to Chicago from across the country and around the world, in these conversations.” The jury cited Umolu’s deep ties to the city as well as her curatorial achievements­–she was chosen for an Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts Curatorial Fellowship in 2016. “Umolu’s curatorial practice, which boldly, yet elegantly, traverses the fields of art and architecture, makes her uniquely situated for success in this role,” said Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee, 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial Artistic Directors, in a joint statement. “The Biennial is a complex and multifaceted platform for exploring both the history and present-day challenges in the field, and we eagerly await the outcomes of Umolu’s curatorial inquiry and exploration.” The 2019 Biennial will also align with the opening of EXPO CHICAGO, the International Exposition of Contemporary and Modern Art, following a successful partnership in 2017. Todd Palmer, Executive Director of the 2017 Biennial, will be returning to lead the 2019 edition.  
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Emerging practices subvert Chicago Athletic Association in Unsolicited Sideshow programming

If you missed the month-long exhibition of the Unsolicited Sideshow in Chicago, it is not too late to be a part of the most subversive portion of the Chicago Architecture Biennial. While the initial exhibition may be over, the programming for the Sideshow continues with the monthly Tank Takeovers at the Chicago Athletic Association. The next event will take place this Friday, November 10 with a “site-specific, immersive light, and sound installation.” The Unsolicited Sideshow first opened with a pop-up exhibition of 11 young architecture practices, literally running alongside the main attraction of the Chicago Architecture Biennial just a few blocks away at the Chicago Cultural Center. For the Tank Takeovers, the Sideshow’s organizers brought together designers, performance artists, and poets over the past months to explore the contemporary conditions of "otherness,” normalcy, and taboo, as they pertain to art, culture, and architecture. In its third installment, this month’s Tank Takeover will take the form of an installation entitled Reverberations. The Tank, the former pool at the Athletic Association, will be filled with projected LED light, “plush puddles of color that spill out onto the floor," and spatial collages activating custom screens. A rotating ensemble of musicians will engage the space, responding and interacting with the installation with experimental music. Presented in collaboration with Detroit and Cincinnati-based firm SUBSTUDIO, the event will include animations by Marc Governanti, and music curated by Zohair Hussein, with fabrication handled by Thomas Dewhirst + Lynn A Jones. The November Tank Takeover will take place at the Chicago Athletic Association on November 10 from 6pm to 10pm. The final Tank Takeover will be on December 8, and will be presented by Portland, Oregon-based Office Andorus in the form of an architectural fiber installation and a dance party.
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Fifty firms imagine 50 futures for Chicago’s underused spaces

Running in conjunction with the Chicago Architecture Biennial, the Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF) has opened Between States, a show which brings together over 50 designers to imagine the future of the city’s 50 aldermanic wards. Between States is the second iteration of the CAF’s multi-year 50 Designers/50 Wards project. Last year’s show 50 Designers, 50 Ideas, 50 Wards asked 50 young design firms to design for the city’s wards, while Between States asked a number of more established firms to take on a similar challenge. Each of the firms was asked to address underutilized spaces in each one of their respective wards, as well as reference another project outside of the city in their design. The title of the show, Between States, is a play on this two-part brief, referring to the changing condition of the sites as well as the importing of references from other places. Firms were also asked to work with the community to assess needs and opportunities in the neighborhood they were designing in. The show will run until January 7, 2018 in the CAF’s Atrium Gallery. The exhibition is curated by Martin Felsen, partner at Chicago-based UrbanLab. Invited firms include: Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture AECOM ARUP Bailey Edward bKL Architecture Booth Hansen CannonDesign Cordogan, Clark & Associates Dirk Denison Architects eastlake studio Eckenhoff Saunders Architects Epstein Exp Farr Associates Forum Studio Future Firm Gensler Ghafari Associates Goettsch Partners Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture HBRA Architects HDR Holabird & Root JAHN Legat Architects Lothan Van Hook Destefano Architecture Metter|Studio / Morris Architects, Planners Sheehan Nagle Hartray Architects Pappageorge Haymes Partners Perkins + Will Global RADA Architects Searl Lamaster Howe Architects Site Design Group SmithGroup JJR SMNG A Solomon Cordwell Buenz SOM Space Architects + Planners Stantec STL Architects Terry Guen Design Associates Thornton Tomasetti Tom Brock Architect Valerio Dewalt Train Associates Vinci Hamp Architects Vladimir Radutny Architects von Weise Associates Weese Langley Weese Wight & Company, Lohan Studio Woodhouse Tinucci Architects Worn Jerabek Wiltse Architects
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Five fundamental problems with the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial

The second Chicago Architecture Biennial opened last week at the Chicago Cultural Center, one of the country’s grandest interior public spaces. Artistic Directors Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee of Los Angeles–based Johnston Marklee gathered some 140 of the world’s top designers and thinkers to address the main show’s theme, “Make New History.” This theme had the potential to provoke designers to engage the rich history of architecture to innovate the field or imagine ways to inhabit the world at large. This biennial does not do that, and it is a serious problem for the very idea of “history” and thus contemporary architecture. What it does is offer is a strong case study for what we can do better. The following are five critiques in this vein. 1. The theme forced a generation of emerging architects into a narrow and deadening frame Young practitioners today are certainly interested in referencing and recycling ideas and forms, but it is not necessarily “history” and certainly not just “architectural history.” There is a fairly interesting group of designers who are exploring topics like pop culture, hoarding, textures, the everyday, and other reference points in interesting ways. For example, the best projects in this Biennial were about parts, not history. Tatiana Bilbao’s tower in the "Vertical City," as well as MAIO and Andrew Kovacs’s projects in "Horizontal City: Room of Plinths" were provocative and relevant because of their assemblage-like organization, not because they used a particular piece of history in a certain way. When the curators say, as Lee said in a recent Artforum interview, that this generation is bound by the idea that “history is a treasure trove," and "they don’t feel shame or guilt to retrieve from it,” it is an institutional-academic co-optation of a movement that cuts and pastes everything with a digitally-enhanced and inspired slickness. This show makes it seem like another staid disciplinary project, prematurely accelerating all of the participants into what Charles Jencks would call the “Late-Mellow” phase of their careers. This theme of “Make New History” made these nascent practices conform to a prompt. This is manifested formally in the arbitrary conceptual overlay for the mini-exhibition “Horizontal City: Room of Plinths” in GAR Hall, where, according to the exhibit text, “the overall plinth layout and sizes were based upon the 1947 IIT Plan by Mies van der Rohe, which we see as a sort of organizational 'afterimage' or a subtext in the room.” This formal move certainly did not add to the show, and no one would have known about it if it weren’t expressed in the curatorial brief. Instead, what this grid did manage to do was serve as a perfect metaphor for an empty, constricting conceptual framework in which the participants were forced to work. So why participate? It is hard for young practices—essentially all of the practices in this show—to go against the grain of these biennials or refuse to participate, because biennials have become a sort of shadow economy where deals are made and practices are “bought and sold” with institutional currency. There are always people scouting talent at these events, so it is hard to say no to participating. (See point 3) 2. The complexity of history was reduced to precedent Most of the historical references were weak and don't add anything substantive to the projects. They were often simply a pair of precedents, such as in the “Vertical City” mini-exhibition, where architects were challenged to rehash the famous 1922 Chicago Tribune Tower Competition. This competition is an iconic reference point in Chicago architecture history, but like most of the historical references in the show, it pretty much stopped there. Some projects were about “signs” or about “steel construction,” but that label was more or less the extent of it. There was not much criticality in each individual project, and the overall idea of history seemed to simply be about picking a precedent. Precedent and history are two different things: the former is about legal or argumentative justification, while the second is about all the interesting social, political, and formal ideas. Perhaps the exhibition should have simply been “Use Precedent (101).” In 1965, using historical forms such as ornament and classical language was a radical, innovative idea. But today, it looks more like a replay of Philip Johnson’s late version of post-modernism, where attitudes about image and form in architecture—pioneered by people like Charles Moore, Venturi Scott Brown, and Hans Hollein—were reduced to empty signifiers that enforced upper class institutional good taste. ‘Twas this reliance on architectural historicism—rather than the new language of postmodern society—that made pomo into a joke for the dustbin of history. In the past, it has often been clear why we are revisiting particular histories as architectural turns, but here it is not. 3. The biennial's market imperative warped the work that was shown  It is no coincidence that this Biennial is so closely related to the commercial art fair EXPO Chicago. It is in some ways the logical conclusion of the Biennial model: a gathering of celebrities who want to show off their recent work. Obviously the work in the Biennial is not being sold in the same way that the work in the art fair is being sold, but there is an economy at work in both places. And these two markets both influence the work in the exhibitions. Someone should make an artrank.com for architects. In the art fair, collectors speculatively invest in art that will hold value, including art that is produced by future stars, artists whose work is cheap now but will appreciate in years to come. This dictates what kind of work is displayed. In the Biennial, young designers are given a “platform” that will—at least in theory—lead to future work and opportunity. This marketplace, unfortunately, shapes the work. In a forthcoming essay entitled “Peripatetic Pettena" in the book The Curious Mr. Pettena (Humboldt Publishers, 2017), artist and architect James Wines reflects on the state of art fairs and the effects of the commoditized market upon art. In the following excerpt, it would work just as well if you replaced “art fair” with “2017 Chicago Biennial;” “Pop era” with “early postmodernism;” and “Abstract Expressionism” with “modernism.”

In today’s gallery world, where stock exchange voracity appears interchangeable with art fair commodity peddling, the anti-commercial and introspective dialogues of the environmental movement during the late 1960s and 70s were like apostolic meditations by comparison.  Even the merchandising excesses associated with Pop Art now seem like somber banking conventions, in contrast to the souk-like sales tactics of current international expos...to its historical credit, the Pop era contributed significantly to liberating the 1960s New York art scene from the fusty anti-figurative bias of third generation Abstract Expressionism.  By contrast, current events like Miami Basel and the Armory Show appear dominated by hyperbolic celebrations of conceptual vacuity, a disproportionate enthusiasm for transitory talent and a steadfast avoidance of original aesthetic values. There is a ubiquitous re-packaging of influences from the past, defended with such vaguely apologetic labels as ‘Appropriation, Pseudorealism, Post-postmodernism, Metamodernism and Neomimimalism.  Too much of the new work, endorsed as hot ticket progressivism is, in reality, a deferent version of ‘if-you-please’ avant-garde.

4. "History" was stale and familiar, and largely irrelevant today  In this Biennial, there were some interesting bits of lesser-known history and some amazing moments of drawing and architectural assemblage. But the curation was uneven, and swerved from heavy-handedness with no productive end to the usual suspects doing their usual things unrelated to the project at hand. In the "Vertical City" show, for example, the wall texts read like a presentation from a first-year design studio. Very little new information was introduced,  and the show took a boring typology—the tall tower—and didn’t even update it. Instead, we got a very personalized response from each designer. There wasn’t much that was “new” or historical in this room. While the 2015 version of the Biennial was simply “all the cool stuff we could find,” it was indeed, cool stuff, at the edge of knowledge both within and outside of the discipline. Biennials don’t have to solve all the world’s problems or solve inequality, but they can at least relate to the outside world in a coherent way. In the end, disciplinary knowledge is at its best when it has productive friction with issues outside the profession. The historical canon is being questioned today more aggressively than ever. There is a real need to probe what kinds of histories we are telling and where. On one of the biggest platforms in the world like the CAB, it was unfortunate that this exhibition only reinforced a Western ideal of architectural history. Almost all of the “history” here was from the Western canon. Now would be the time to really upend some of the stale narratives that have dominated architectural history in the past. 5. Its relationship to art was all wrong The art references made in this Biennial are mostly from the 1960s, such as Ed Ruscha, from whom the title was borrowed, Gordon Matta-Clark, and Claus Oldenburg. While certainly interesting, these antiquated modern art references keep the exhibition from engaging with the contemporary, adding another layer of alienation. Contemporary art biennials have moved so far past these modern art references that it makes this Biennial look completely out of date. The Berlin Biennale 9 (BB9) in 2016, curated by the New York collective DIS, was full of ultra-contemporary works that addressed all kinds of issues today like cryptocurrency, surveillance, wellness, migration, emerging technologies, new social norms, and radical shifts in how we consume media, among a host of topics. It was criticized for not being overtly political enough, but it did access some of the pertinent ideas that are affecting how we live today. There is really no way to compare the sheer horror and excitement that came from BB9 to the dusty 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial. So given these five issues, what do we take away from the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial? If this show is any indication, there is a real case to be made for abandoning the language of architectural history entirely and inventing something else. Some of the most interesting times for architecture occurred when we tried to move beyond something prior, or as Bertolt Brecht said, “Erase the traces!” If there is a role for architectural history outside of the academy, it is not obvious what that might be, based on what this show demonstrated. How history was deployed was problematic for the discipline, as it was too narrow in its purview, and made an exciting time in architecture (the re-orientation of the discipline in the age of digital space and ubiquitous digital production) into another worn-out historical trope.
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What is the future of the Chicago riverfront?

While many architects moon over biennials and architecture festivals, these shows are often a bit esoteric for the general public. The Chicago Architecture Biennial (CAB) is no exception. Amidst the complex discussions and abstract installations, the average visitor may enjoy the show, but also feel a bit disconnected. However, there is one show at CAB that anyone would find accessible. Located in EXPO 72 across the street from the Chicago Cultural Center, the exhibition, Chicago Urban River Edges Ideas Lab, presents the visions of nine firms for the Chicago River. Chicago Urban River Edges Ideas Lab was initiated by the City of Chicago’s Department of Planning and Development and the Metropolitan Planning Council to solicit proposals for the city’s quickly evolving riverfront. Firms participating in the show include David Adjaye, James Corner Field Operations, Perkins + Will, Ross Barney Architects, Sasaki, Site Design, SOM, Studio Gang Architects, and SWA. Each firm addressed three sites along the river with designs that ranged from outdoor theater spaces to water remediation and ecological classrooms. Other ideas included policy suggestions, such as SWA’s forest bonus, rather than a density bonus. Multiple offices proposed ways of engaging more closely with the river itself, including James Corner Field Operation’s softened edge and Perkins+Will’s riverside beach. The three sections of the river addressed by the show are the Civic Opera House, the Congress Parkway, and the Air Line Bridge. Each of these sites present different challenges which the city hopes to resolve. While large stretches of the riverfront have already been converted into the Chicago Riverwalk, there are over 156 miles that have yet to be developed or connected with public walkways and activity spaces. The initial downtown stretch of redeveloped space was designed by Ross Barney Architects and Sasaki, and was completed earlier this year. The exhibition, which was also designed by Ross Barney Architects, aims to engage public feedback and present ambitious yet feasible visions of the river’s future. Throughout, large renderings with texts allow visitors to compare proposals side by side. Those interested are directed to the project's extensive website to watch interviews with the architects, watch animated shorts about the proposals, and send commentary to the city and designers. “We thought this would be a great way to bring together a bunch of very creative folks, as well as help Chicagoans begin to imagine how this could work and what their place in it would be,” explained Josh Ellis, vice president of Metropolitan Planning Council at the exhibition opening. While the exhibition is not intended to be a competition, it is clear that each of the offices poured resources and brain power into the project. The Department of Planning and Development as well as the Mayor’s office have been explicit in their search for ideas for the future of the river. “This is just a snapshot of how serious each of these teams took this. These are meant to be ideas that can be realized,” said Clare Cahan, studio design director at Studio Gang at the opening. “There are things that will be attractive to communities, attractive to the city, and attractive to developers.”
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Jeanne Gang-Nick Cave collaboration launches EXPO and Chicago Architecture Biennial

For the concurrent opening of EXPO Chicago and the Chicago Architecture Biennial, artist Nick Cave and architect Jeanne Gang put on a show few are likely to forget. The first performance of their collaboration, Here Hear Chicago. took place on September 13 at Navy Pier’s AON Grand Ball Room for a capacity crowd during EXPO’s Vernissage. Subsequent shows will take place over the weekend for the public. The buzzing atmosphere of EXPO’s preview night was overtaken by the sound of drums a half hour before the scheduled start of the performance, as a parade of Cave's uncanny “Soundsuit”-clad performers marched between the stalls of the international art show. Guests ran to get a look and cheered the scene as the performers made their way to the grand ballroom. Before entering the space, the troop moved through a forest of six-foot tall “buoys,” made by Studio Gang. Each performer wove and danced around the more than 200 teetering chrome Mylar objects as the crowd followed. Nick Cave-Jeanne Gang: Here Hear Chicago (Courtesy Spirit of Space) from Architect's Newspaper on Vimeo. The show itself began in a more muted key. Set to the haunting music of composer Kahil El'Zabar, Cave and a group of young men took the stage. Sitting perfectly still for a full half hour, each was attended to by a white-clad attendant who slowly and methodically dressed them in colorful fur soundsuits. When they finally stood, bodies completely abstracted, the crowd roared their approval. For the next 45 minutes, the performers moved through the space, interacting with each other and the crowd. Most of the time their bodies were abstracted and concealed. A fleeting glimpse of a foot or hand shooting out from the exorbitant costuming was the only hint of humanity in the alien forms. Guttural calls and howls by the performances accompanied El'Zabar’s abstract jazz, with the occasional call back from members of the audience. In the last moments of the show, Nick Cave set the long line of buoys lining the stage into movement. For those who may have hoped that the Studio Gang-designed elements would have played a larger role in the performance, this was the apex. Once the show was complete, many guests rushed to engage with the playful forms. Here Hear Chicago was part of the kick-off of the sixth EXPO CHICAGO international art exhibition and the second Chicago Architecture Biennial. EXPO runs from September 13 through September 17 at Navy Pier, and the Chicago Architecture Biennial runs from September 16 through January 7, 2018 at various venues, with a main exhibition at the Chicago Cultural Center.  
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What’s up with the Chicago Architecture Biennial?

The 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial (CAB) will open its second iteration this September under the theme “Make New History.” This raises some serious questions. Why are we still talking about “history” in architecture? Didn’t the cheeky use of architectural history doom postmodernism? Early postmodernism’s original, successful use of decorative, historic forms was a radically subversive act in the 1960s, a revolt against the hegemony of Miesian corporate modernism. But isn’t there a new language for today’s context? One could make the argument that history is always present in architecture, even if there isn’t an obvious rampant arch or column. For example, as digital techniques took off in the 1980s and '90's, Chuck Hoberman looked to Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic dome for precedent. Isn’t history ironically present even in the most radical ideas? Is referencing "history" a way of going back to the pomo of 1979, or even the Romanesque Revival of the mid-1800s? What do we even mean by “history”? Is there a more underwhelming word in architecture? Do we need another Chicago Tribune Tower competition, which the biennial intends to revisit? Hasn’t the Chicago architecture community—led by Stanley Tigerman (and his late submissions)—done enough of those? It can be argued that the site, context, politics, codes, and people involved in any project leave a mark and, if we look close enough, define and historicize most buildings. How many times can we simplify architectural forms into lower-res versions of themselves until we are at minimalist modernism again? It seems history—rather than a productive starting point for intellectual inquiry—is becoming a flaccid category deployed to showcase the work of friends without thinking too much about the content? Perhaps this would have been an opportunity to consider how architectural history relates to the city and its inhabitants. In other words, what does it mean to be the Chicago Architecture Biennial? Consider the responsibilities of staging a massive architecture exhibition in one of the grandest public interiors in the world. Will summer vacationers Gary and Sheila from Waukesha, Wisconsin, understand—let alone care about—the exhibition? The city's first architecture biennial introduced a formidable group of Chicago practitioners to the larger architectural community and presented a balanced global perspective to the people of Chicago. Was the 2015 biennial so good because it blended the global and local perfectly? Was it the first biennial’s inimitable leadership—Graham Foundation Director Sarah Herda’s on-the-ground supervision and architect-curator Joseph Grima’s global perspective—that impressed Chicago on the contemporary architecture consciousness? What is the real goal of this year’s biennial? Is it to summon the usual suspects for another round of talks and events that will struggle to be different than what we saw Venice and Oslo?  Will this year have a balance of geographic perspectives? Will there be too many Swiss participants, and if so, why? Will there be any “history” from the rich history of the global south? Will Chicago Round Two be the point where we finally reach peak “-ennial?” Perhaps what all of this boils down to is: How will “history” operate in this biennial? This could be an opportune moment in which history could connect the biennial to issues outside of architecture, or speculate on new ways architecture could be relevant in the world. It could help point to the future and imagine how technology, the environment, migration, and other nascent geopolitical forces will rearrange the world. Or will we fall asleep listening to yet another reflection on Rosalind Krauss and John Baldessari? So, what is the reason for this return to something that we never really lost? And how will this about-face to “history” be different than past discursive turns? There are certainly new ways of making and working available in examining history, but is “history” just a disciplinary co-opt of a broader, more relevant phenomenon endemic in our cut-and-paste culture and the information age? History in this year's Chicago biennial seems to be used as an empty signifier that denotes taste and style, like the art we might see at EXPO Chicago, which—not coincidentally—will run in parallel to CAB. The curators say they are interested in "the axis between architecture and art." But if we really want to talk about art and architecture, why not look at contemporary art and how it combines disciplinary knowledge with relevant issues—and how it seems to be having better luck than architecture operating in a market that it is completely dependent on?