Posts tagged with "Chicago Architecture Biennial":

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Everybody Dance Now: Steven Holl collaborates for dance at the Chicago Architecture Biennial

One of the more unusual things I heard when preparing for the Chicago Architecture Biennial (CAB) was a tip from someone involved that there was going to be "a ballet about Steven Holl." I was obviously excited about this prospect, and I finally got to see the final results last Friday. It may not have been exactly about Steven himself, but it was close. It turns out that CAB co-artistic director Sarah Herda had dreamed up a pairing in the initial stages of planning the Biennial. The result is a surreal performance by Jessica Lang Dance in collaboration with none other than New York architect Steven Holl. For 20 minutes at the Harris Theater on the northern edge of Millennium Park, "Tesseracts of Time" combined architecture and performance arguably the most potent way of all the Biennial's performances, as nimble bodies gracefully moved around and through stage sets designed by Holl. Lang took "a sculptural approach to this new work, utilizing visually arresting sets and costumes, enabling three-dimensional interactions with bodies and objects that evoke emotions and tangible sensation." The first act included a large, site-specific projection of a wooden model of Holl's Explorations of IN, which provided the backdrop for the experimental dance. Dancers emerged on the screen, superimposed into the model at the exact scale as the real-life dancers below. The music for the show was chosen based on material in "The Architectonics of Music," taught by Steven Holl and Dimitra Tsachrelia at Columbia GSAPP. It includes David Lang, Morton Feldman, John Cage, Iannis Xenakis, and Arvo Pärt. The real fireworks came in the second act when three fabric-over-tube forms sat on the stage, glowing white. The dancers moved in and through them, before the shapes were gradually lifted up off the ground. As they rose from the dance surface, colored lights illuminated the fabric forms from the sides of the stage. Tesseracts was based on the four seasons, compressed into 20 minutes. The colors of the backdrop and the hanging Holl forms changed in harmony with the changing of the seasons. https://www.youtube.com/embed/QlFxZfu-GRo For more architecture and performance, check out the discussion, "Building Blocks: Choreography as Architecture,” by Minneapolis-based choreographer Chris Schlichting and visual artist Jennifer Davis, at the Chicago Cultural Center.
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Letter to the Editor> Francois Roche responds to Patrik Schumacher’s reproach of the Chicago Architecture Biennial

[Editor’s Note: Opinions expressed in letters to the editor do not necessarily reflect the opinions or sentiments of the newspaper. AN welcomes reader letters, which could appear in our regional print editions. To share your opinion, please email editor@archpaper.com] The Architect's Newspaper recently published an excerpt from Patrik Schumacher’s now-infamous Facebook post which he also sent to AN. In response, Thailand-based architect Francois Roche sent us the following letter from his Facebook page; an edited version was also posted on Dezeen. For context, here is part of Schumacher’s text, and Roche’s unedited response. Read Schumacher's full statement here.

“The State of the Art of Architecture” delivered by the Chicago Architecture Biennial Exhibition must leave lay-visitors bewildered by one overwhelming subliminal message: Contemporary architecture ceased to exist, the discipline’s guilt and bad conscience has sapped its vitality, driven it to self-annihilation and architects have now en masse dedicated themselves to doing good via basic social work. A less charitable interpretation sees the hijacking of the newly created Chicago Architecture Biennial by a marginal but academically entrenched ideological tendency within the discipline that has abandoned their societal remit of innovating the built environment at the world technological frontier and instead pours its allocated resources into concept-art style documentation and agitation of behalf of underdeveloped regions and milieu. —Patrik Schumacher

From inside / a review far away from the Neo-Liberal Jealousy and last Übermensch libertarian Patrik Schumacher jiggering... this past week / but within the ideological and political Tabula rasa that operated on the situation / Chicago Cultural Center was (is) before everything a social center... the last homeless spot in downtown Chicago / With a tacitly organized passive violence, during the Biennial opening days only “members” with authorized badges were admitted / Rejecting the regular “trashy-freak” users / To quote Bourdieu ... Taste is an affair of business, exclusion, and social class... contemporary museums widely betray the emancipating hypothesis of their origin and foundation / At the Biennial all architects were participating to this “hygienist” strategy / But the most absurd ... was to listen to their speeches about bio-politics, greenish-color and bottom-up slummy romanticism, saving Willy and the world with Joseph Grima (the curator in charge of this specific Activism Carnival) on the throne of those selves-complaisance-indulgence... at the spot and the time where the Cultural-Social Center became “bunkerized.” ... Between Patrik and Zaha, who are ignoring with cynicism the workers’ dramatic condition of servitude in Abu Dhabi, and who participated to the biggest brainwashing enterprise of these past ten years: technologies as a strategy of ignorance-arrogance-positivism (pleonasm), and symmetrically the participants of this Biennial who “naively and innocently” excluded the damaged bodies and disordered minds, while wearing their black Penguin suits to moralistically enact political entertainment... WHO are the most criminal? Simply the two faces of the same coin or bitcoin... feeding themselves as a reciprocity simulacrum, as Ping-Pong between the Cynical and the Clown... the history of intellectual Tabula rasa... of architecture discipline... Could we find a crack between the techno-fetishism and at its opposite the techno-regression? It is so comfortable to choose one of these chapels... there are many advantages to reduce or to falsify consciousness and knowledge... Techno-sciences shouldn’t be an Object any more.... but a Subject that we have to re-appropriate in “democratic anthropo-technic” strategies... Francois Roche
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Tigerman’s Epiphany: New photomontage update of “Titanic” unveiled at the Chicago Architecture Biennial

On October 22nd, marking the 130th anniversary of the Chicago Architecture Club and as part of the ongoing Chicago Architecture Foundation's Currencies of Architecture exhibition, Stanley Tigerman unveiled a follow up to his 1978 “Titanic” photomontage. Entitled “The Epiphany,” the new image, somewhat ironically, is a protest against what Tigerman sees as a contemporary infatuation with icons. The image itself depicts Mies Van Der Rohe’s Crown Hall and Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Bilbao sitting side-by-side on the lunar surface. From the same sky as the original “Titanic,” a bomb is falling to destroy them both. As with its predecessor, “The Epiphany” is less a critique of Van Der Rohe or Gehry, as much as it is of those that hold them and their work as the basis for their own work. “The problem with icon is that people use it as a starting point,” Tigerman explained to the crowd at the Chicago Architecture Foundation. “Instead of tabula rasa, a blank page. Inspiration is the emptiness of your page, or your blank computer screen.” “Architects need to teach, in some way,” Tigerman encouraged in the conversation around the unveiling, which was part of a larger event which included discussion of the state of the field and the current Chicago Architecture Biennial. Tigerman also took the time to express his pleasure with the current generation of young architects, and his ambition to hand off the field. “I am very pleased with the current generation. I feel good. I can go now.” "The Epiphany" and Currencies of Architecture can be seen for free at the Chicago Architecture Foundation.
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Sou Fujimoto’s search for lightness at the Chicago Architectural Biennial

Just like every other major architectural exhibition, the Chicago Architecture Biennial is a massive undertaking filled with large scale models, full size mock- ups and room sized installations. However, the most light-handed approach in the main exhibition can be found sandwiched between two full scale houses. Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto placed about 40 different found objects on five-inch-by-five-inch plywood bases. The objects range from wooden branches to industrial mass-products like ashtrays, to processed food such as chips or candy. Each plate is populated with white scalies and paired with a line of text. A sponge becomes a “myriad of voids layered on top of another, creating a density of void” and a pine cone reads: “When one thinks about it, this form has been a friend in architecture for thousands of years.” The casual inexpensiveness of the objects is amplified by the way they are displayed, seemingly without attachment. A pile of loosely arranged chips seems likely to fly away with the next visitor brushing by. Clearly there is a relationship to Fujimoto’s search for lightness, literally in the appearance of the architecture but also in the figure of the architect being open to inspiration from unexpected sources. This minimal installation eclipses many of the larger efforts of the show—Aaron Betsky called it the most successful installation in the main building. While the installation brings up questions about the role of ready-mades in the design process and issues of scalability, it also quietly mocks the expensive, time- and energy-consuming efforts of some of the exhibitors. With ease it brings playfulness and the joy of simple discoveries back into the discussion.
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Exploring Crown Hall and future of Emerging Voices at the Chicago Architecture Biennial

At the Chicago Architecture Biennial, the role of the horizon in architectural display and setting for events was noticeable—both in the biennial's discussions held at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) Chicago during the opening as well in the main exhibition in the Chicago Cultural Center. Here is what made instant impressions. When the dust settles, various other things will emerge, that I am sure. IIT threw a party for the biennial, as well as hosted panel discussions earlier that day. Without a doubt, Mies van der Rohe's Crown Hall is an unbeatable example (on its ideological turf) of how rigorous rules of platonic geometry still drive the photogenic nature beyond actuality, and somehow end up being free of time. The Crown Hall is not only a setting of purity in Cartesian world of grids, but also an organizational force that persists as a monolith in face of any pluralistic trends of the moment, many of them that are present at the biennial. Two discussions "crowned" the morning of that day. First, by reviewing a group of "Emerging Voices," a descriptor meant for a youngish architecture practice established by The Architectural League of New York. After  presentations by Dan Wood, Tatiana Bilbao, Michael Meredith, Florian Idenburg, Paul Lewis and Kim Yao, along with a Martin Felsen-moderated discussion, Anne Rieselbach, of the Architectural League, asked the question that was hanging in the air (paraphrased): For how long will emerging architects will still be considered emerging? Judging by the work presented, the offices owned by the panelists are well ahead in their production of some very important projects. Yet, ideologically, what is the position of supporting institutions of Emerging Voices in order to understand the advance of such highly educated architect makers, influenced by being apprentices to their "parent" architects such as OMA, Peter Eisenman, Steven Holl, Diller Scofidio+Renfro, and SANAA. Are they, the “emerging children,” still struggling to assert their own brilliance and excellence already on record? The interesting and lateral voice was Tatiana Bilbao, architect from Mexico City and the only woman on the panel, for whom the question of influence nor mentorship really seemed to matter. It is always good for the debate to see someone shake the table horizontally and get the discussion to go further. Bilbao is from what people in the North call the South. Which leads me to the observation of the second panel at IIT, moderated by Fabrizio Gallanti and titled "South-North," as an inversion to common understanding of geography. This conversation involved two architects from the “South” and two architects from the “North.” Felipe Mesa and David Barragan, spoke about how different it is to be an architect from the south, and how the south is discovering new phenomena in the last five years, such as tourism. Architecture seems to play a large role in the trend of emerging tourism in locations that were not usually visited before. The lessons from these conversations at this time seem two fold. At one end, the inclusion of the south is simply not just having south, it is about being south from the north. In terms of competence of design and construction process, there seems to be no difference, yet there is asymmetry due to different climates that impose legal regulations onto architecture. David Barragan from Quito referred to vernacular architecture in Ecuador as an escape from the curriculum of the architecture schools there that teach detail drawings made to Swiss and German standards, which no one can read and perform there. The case in point. A side discussion with Paul Lewis unfolded at the scene after these two panels. We both looked at the ceiling of IIT covered in tiles that are in square shape while the entire geometry of the Crown Hall is rectangular. It is good to remember that ideas behind pure architecture are indeed purer in geometry, and not necessarily in economy. Back at the Chicago Cultural Center, three installations stand out as direct answers to the title of the biennial: The State of the Art in Architecture. If not noted before, this title is borrowed from Stanley Tigerman’s conference held at Graham Foundation in 1977. For me two projects presented at the biennial draw attention to this topic at best: First, Nikolaus Hirsch & Michel Müller and, second, WORKac & Ant Farm. They take the aspects of the future from the past seriously into the design process of crafting them now. It is a fantastical world of day-dreaming of architecture that crosses through any statements of architects trying to do art…and fail gracefully…into the next set of ideas of what the future of art shall be, by architecture.
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Letter> State of what art? Patrik Schumacher rails against the Chicago Architecture Biennial

[Editor’s Note: Opinions expressed in letters to the editor do not necessarily reflect the opinions or sentiments of the newspaper. AN welcomes reader letters, which could appear in our regional print editions. To share your opinion, please email editor@archpaper.com] The State of the Art of Architecture, delivered by the Chicago Architecture Biennial Exhibition, must leave lay-visitors bewildered by one overwhelming subliminal message: Contemporary architecture has ceased to exist, the discipline’s guilt and bad conscience has sapped its vitality, driven it to self-annihilation, and architects have now en masse dedicated themselves to doing good via basic social work. A less charitable interpretation sees the hijacking of the newly created Chicago Architecture Biennial as a marginal but academically entrenched ideological tendency within the discipline that has abandoned its societal remit of innovating the built environment at the world technological frontier, and is instead pouring its allocated resources into concept-art style documentation and agitation on behalf of underdeveloped regions and the milieu. I am rather suspicious of these creative/artistic engagements with poverty. It sometimes risks mutating into a questionable aesthetization of poverty, a questionable romance. Questionable because what the poor of this world most probably (and rightly) aspire to requires little creativity and imagination because it is already plotted out for them by the ladder of development leading up to what has been achieved in the most advanced arenas of world civilization, where—in contrast—true, path-breaking creativity is indeed called for. I rather feel that our discourse has become far too moralizing and politicized. It’s all too familiar by now: Political correctness swamps the discipline and takes over its discursive spaces. For example, why should an ARCHITECTURAL biennial give a huge space to an ART project like Amanda WilliamsColor(ed) Theory when ART has already its own (many more) venues for public display/discourse? How is this more relevant to contemporary architecture than contemporary architecture itself? Patrik Schumacher
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Eavesdrop> Blown Over in the Windy City

A juicy tidbit from the Chicago Architecture Biennial. The number of projects in the Chicago Cultural Center right now is a bit dizzying, but we can only imagine what the place was like during the installation. It is a small miracle that it all fit, let alone got assembled correctly. The process was not without snafus. Multiple sources reported to AN that in the final hours before the preview opening on October 1, the large circular construction by Spanish architects SelgasCano (of Serpentine fame) and helloeverything actually collapsed. Fortunately, it was sturdily put back together for the opening. The team recovered with an elegant tension cable design that worked quite well, and is to be commended under such a last-minute timeframe.
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Kissing Constructs: Barbara Kasten’s surreal photography at the Chicago Architecture Biennial

Thursday night, Barbara Kasten’s first major retrospective opened at the Graham Foundation as an offsite event of the Chicago Architecture Biennial. Set in the Madlener house, a turn-of-the century Prairie-Style mansion, the exhibition brings together a roughly chronological overview of the artist’s practice from the 1970s until today. The works on display are of an astonishingly contemporary quality—many of the framed photographs follow the aesthetic paradigms of current net—or Tumblr art featuring primitive geometric shapes of varying surface texture lit in a rich palette of pastel colors forming surreal spatial compositions. Kasten started her career working with fibers, with some of the most impressive works in the show being a series of cyanotype prints from the 1970s achieved by laying down fiberglass molds onto large sheets coated with chemicals. The images evoke seemingly three-dimensional rippled fabric brought to the flat plane through a technical process. Moving further into the third dimension Kasten started to build large-scale studio sets in the 1970s. Her forms highly geometric at first, she increasingly started adding more specific elements such as column details from architectural catalogues. These photographs are highly reminiscent of much more recent images circulating on the internet produced with 3d modeling and rendering software. Many of the analogue processes used by Kasten in this phase of her work can be applied particularly well in the virtual domain. The backgrounds are simplistic and contained, there is no natural light or environment to complicate the render process, and the objects are geometric primitives or sourced from catalogues rather than created from scratch. Despite formal similarities a significant difference separates the ethereal digital spaces from Barbara Kasten meticulously constructed environments. As Kasten points out in a recent interview, weight and gravity play an important role in the construction of sculptures. The props used by Kasten are never mounted in place but rest on or adjacent to each other through gravity. By the 1980s Kasten moved on to incorporating existing buildings into her sets, transforming them through light, color, and mirrors to create compositional photographs. She first worked with corporate headquarters and financial centers and later turned to museums as different kind of spaces of authority. Depicting these composed, lasting, authoritative buildings with temporary, fragile, colorful and disorienting sensibility she produced what Sylvia Lavin coined a kiss, or a powerful statement through a gentle gesture. The images produced in this series act as records of an atmospheric transformation of a number of establishment-reinforcing spaces. On the third floor of the Madlener house the show culminates with a site specific installation. With moving light projections directed at sculptural forms it is like one of her photographic stages come to life. It is a beautiful experience yet also feels like an unmasking of a magicians trick—with the mechanism behind the photographs exposed, the stage-like installation loses some of the precision and specificity of the highly controlled still frames. The piece is most successful at illustrating the incredible breadth of Barbara Kasten’s work, blurring the boundaries between art, installation, and architecture—despite the fact that all the illusions are based on the limits of physical space.
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Theaster Gates opens Stony Island Arts Bank at Chicago Architecture Biennial

If you're in town for the Chicago Architecture Biennial, be sure to visit the newly-opened Stony Island Arts Bank, a formerly derelict 1923 bank structure on Chicago's South Side that has been transformed into a spectacular center for exhibitions, artist residencies, and the preservation of archival collections of black culture. The building's rebirth was made possible by artist Theaster Gates' Rebuild Foundation, which has renovated three other buildings in the area as part of its program of "culturally driven redevelopment." The Arts Bank's opening, said Gates, offers the Biennial "a way of understanding that great things can happen anywhere if we make the investment." In this case Gates (who bought the building from the city for $1 and then raised hundreds of thousands for its renovation) worked with his team of architects, bringing out the character of each room organically. Some parts were restored, others left as-is, and others made new. "If you're patient with the program, the building has so much to offer," said Gates. The heart of that program, outside of amazing rooms for artists and scholars, is the storage and display of the extensive archives of the Johnson Publishing Company, which printed black lifestyle magazines like Ebony and Jet. That collection is housed in a cavernous 2nd floor library whose books seem to reach to the sky. In other rooms and hallways you can see the Frankie Knuckles collection of the "godfather of black house music: and the Edward J. Williams Collection of more than 60,000 glass lantern slides. On display in the first floor gallery is an appropriately makeshift (and beautiful)  installation by Portuguese artist Carlos Bunga. Other Rebuild Foundation buildings include Black Cinema House (also home to Gates' studio), the Dorchester Art + Housing Collaborative, and Dorchester Projects.
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Performances rule the day at the Chicago Architecture Biennial

Performance has been the breakout surprise of the Chicago Architecture Biennial. While many of the works inside the Chicago Cultural Center grapple with issues of urbanism, politics, and the resonances of Modernism (especially Mies’ oversized presence in the city) in contemporary culture, the three performances included in the opening weekend program address and embody what is at stake. Views from Superpowers of Ten by Andrés Jaque and the Office for Political Innovation (andres_jaque, Instagram)Views from Superpowers of Ten by Andrés Jaque and the Office for Political Innovation (@andres_jaque, Instagram) Superpowers of Ten by Madrid/New York-based architect Andrés Jaque and his Office for Political Innovation, developed for and first performed at the Lisbon Architecture Triennial 2013, uses pop, oversized props and black-clad performers to restage of the Eames’ icon Powers of Ten. The original film was filmed on the banks of Lake Michigan, not far from the Chicago Athletic Club where it was performed. Jaque’s reworking expands the Eames narrative to our contemporary condition. The exponential zooming out from Earth and then back into the heart of the atom now includes critical questions of space junk, nuclear fallout, immigration, race, queerness, and transgender identity. In a gallery the unorthodox mix of para-architectural issues might seem ponderous, but told through pantomime, they resonate visually and emotionally. We Know How to Order, conceived by Bryony Roberts, and choreographed by Asher Waldron of the South Shore Drill Team powerfully superimposes the movement of African American bodies in space on top of the charged site of Federal Center by Mies van der Rohe. The South Shore Drill Team, hailing from one of the poorest neighborhoods in Chicago, trains young people to master the precise choreography. On the plaza, while the performers mimicked the lines of Mies’ architecture, which underscoring the conditions of universal space into the public realm, they also brought joy and dynamism to the windswept public space. Even stalwarts of the architecture community were moved to tap their feet and wipe their eyes. https://vimeo.com/141231941 Performed in Mies' super spare Carr Chapel on the IIT campus, Theatre by Mexican artist Santiago Borja brought a different kind of otherness to the Miesian space of worship. The performance was set with two specially-designed petate rugs, woven in Mexico, that represent esoteric geometries developed in Europe at the start of the modern movement. Made out of palm leaves, one rug sits on the floor and the other hangs above, demarking what is not so much a stage as an abstract spiritual space for Ingrid Everwijn, the lead teacher of the Eurythmeum CH in Dornach Switzerland. Dressed in pink and yellow dress, Everwijn performed eurythmy movements—a kind of “spiritual gymnastics” developed by Rudolf Steiner and Marie Sivers in early 20th Century. The result was mystical, irrational, and energetic, as well as an immersive experience that undermined the rigors of Miesian abstraction.
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House Housing: An untimely history of architecture and real estate in 23 episodes

After a marathon session of presentations of all architects/artists in the biennial Thursday afternoon was marked by a preview of the complex, yet succinct exhibit House Housing capturing the history of inequality of designed inhabitation. Staged as an open house in one of last remaining buildings of one of the first federally-funded housing complex in Chicago, the exhibition is a walk-through into the part of the future home of the National Public Housing Museum (NPHM). Standing in front of the open house the curators with NPHM directors and residents gave a glimpse of the process that led to this collaboration to the audience in front of the open house. Inside the entrance a dilapidated apartment served as the concrete prop for the exhibit introduced as "An untimely history of architecture and real state in twenty three episodes". Empty, low lit rooms with walls carrying scores of uncannily pealed paint become a home for the installation made of home looking furniture, shelves, desks and platforms. Using multiple mediums and told in 23 episodes throughout the open house, House Housing further uses domestic media such as the phonograph, answering machine, television and iPad to tell the story of inequality of housing that are lived everywhere today. As Martin writes in the pamphlet coming with the exhibit, the domestic media in the installation transforms the crumbling rooms of former apartments into "a whispering, humming history machine." Being inside the open house gives a special sense to the material presented as a culture that is not only economically constrained, but also lived as form of constraint. With this exhibit the NPHM inaugurates its future home and hopes to further initiate debates on economies for housing not shy of ideological investigations of the cause, crisis and removal of modern housing and its replacement with typologies of new urbanism. A couple of visitors could be heard commenting how the spaces of the open house feel like being in a socialist home, a comment not too far off if one unjustly equates poverty with a specific ideology. Ultimately House Housing points to the "art of inequality" carried via the twenty three episodes that are specific, yet global, that its design is still happening as we experience the open house visit. A bleak preview of the future to come that is also uncertain. The exhibition is installed by the Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture and assembled by a team of researchers at Columbia University directed by Reinhold Martin and curated together with Jacob Moore and Susanne Schindler. The group's website has more information about this long term project.