Posts tagged with "Chicago":
With only one previous iteration, it seems impossible not to continuously compare the upcoming 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial to its predecessor. And that does not have to be a bad thing. During a panel discussion during the inaugural 2015 Biennial, British architect Sam Jacob was asked what the theme of next biennial should be. His response? In sum: Just do the exact same theme. That way, not only can we see the progress of the field over two years, but then we will also have two events that can be compared, apples to apples. His statement, though somewhat in jest, seems to have been, at least in part, prophetic.
With the recent announcement of the participants list, under the artistic direction of Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee of Johnston Marklee, we have our first look at how similar the exhibition may be. And though the list of around 100 offices does include many new names, there are 22 repeats from 2015. There are other similarities between the lists. Neither 2015 nor 2017 include any significant contribution from corporate firms. In 2015 this was a sore point for many of the hundreds of local architects that work in the numerous mega-firms in Chicago. Many local architects admitted to not even having seen the show, despite it being free and only blocks from many of the largest offices in the city.
But this is why Jacob’s idea of repetition could end up being so brilliant. First, the biennial is not for the big corporate firms—even if it is being held in the city that is bursting with giants. Biennials are where the most avant-garde architectural discourse is presented. While contemporary large firms often lead the way in engineering and technological daring, they are rarely at the fore of architectural discussion. The nature of their business means that they cannot afford to be. Small, young practices on the other hand, with fewer mouths to feed and less money on the table, can’t afford not to be on the edge. For ambitious young firms, being experimental is the only way to set themselves apart in a world of architecture blogs and Instagram. For good or for bad.
One thing the large firms do well is exporting Chicago Architecture to the rest of the world. The biennial is a rare chance for the city, and the U.S. at large, to import some architecture. This factor should never be undervalued. The well-known story of Frank Lloyd Wright being influenced by the Japanese pavilion at the 1893 Columbian Exposition should be enough of a lesson. Chicago is already benefitting from this in the form of the Museum of Contemporary Arts’ upcoming renovation by two 2015 CAB participants, Johnston Marklee and Pedro&Juana.
Something can also be said about the quality of the practices being invited. The list, repeats and new firms alike, is filled with excellent firms. The names might not always be familiar or pulled from glossy magazine pages, but the last iteration is proof that these practices are thoughtful yet daring in their architecture. The United States, and Chicago in particular, have a problem with not supporting small and/or young practices. Biennials are a place where that can happen.
Another notable similarity is the presence of Johnston and Lee. They were responsible for an exhibit in the main show as well as a solo exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Johnston was also on the jury for the 2015 Biennial’s Lakefront Kiosk Competition (a program that will not be continuing this year).
Only five months out from the September 17 opening, we still don’t know a ton about what the show will be all about. Yet through a close reading of the participant list, and the memory of the last show, we can make some educated guesses about its nature. The overlap of offices, the exclusion of corporate firms, and the main venue of the Chicago Cultural Center tell us the show will likely feel familiar. Yet, knowing the wide range of small, diverse offices, it is just as likely to be full of surprises and architectural ideas that Chicago has not seen.
This post is part of our years-long running Eavesdrop series (think page 6 for the architectural field). It’s your best source for gossip, insider stories, and more. Have an eavesdrop of your own? Send it to: eavesdrop[at]archpaper.com.
To address the cheers and fears of those living along Chicago’s linear 606 bike trail, an area alderman is proposing new laws to slow gentrification around the popular public space. As the park, which goes through numerous Northwest side neighborhoods, has grown in popularity, the housing prices in the area have followed suit. To combat the rising housing prices, Alderman Proco Joe Moreno is proposing new fees on housing demolition and on conversions from multi-family to single-family housing. It has become popular to convert Chicago’s ubiquitous two-flat buildings into single-family homes, effectively lowering density, raising property values, and taking more affordable housing options off the market. The proposal also includes incentives for developers to improve existing buildings, instead of razing and rebuilding.
There is a productive dissonance among the many pieces in the current exhibition at the Graham Foundation, Spaces without drama or surface is an illusion, but so is depth. A dissonance between scale and size, performance and perception, and artifact and object. Each contribution from the 24 participating designers, architects, and artists implies its own narrative, separate from the other pieces. Yet, as a whole, the entire show has a clarity that resonates across the disparate objects and installations.
Spaces without drama is curated by the Mexico City–based Ruth Estévez and Wonne Ickx of LIGA, Space for Architecture. The duo propositioned participants to explore two-dimensional surfaces as a means of producing architectural space. The prompt is a direct reaction to the recent proliferation of digital collage, and an attempt at drawing a lineage through the historic works of canonical postmodern designers and artists. The result is a diverse set of works that straddle the lines of stage set, model, and installation. The genesis of much of the work comes from the Aldo Rossi’s Small Scientific Theatre and David Hockney’s design for The Magic Flute, both of which are present in the show in drawing and collage form. From that starting point, the more contemporary work ranges from full-scale environments to carefully crafted maquettes.
At the largest scale, pieces throughout the show set the gallery spaces as stages to be explored, or backdrops to view the work against. Cité de Réfuge by OFFICE Kersten Geers David Van Severen wraps two walls in a large curtain. This blocks off the Graham Foundation’sground-floor windows, while extending the visitor’s view to Ceuta: a refugee city in the no-man’s-land between Spain and Morocco. Batia Suter’s Vale/Cabenet plays a similar game with some of the Graham’s built-in cabinetry, which is tactically covered in digitally manipulated scenery. Silke Otto-Knapp’s Stage (after Kurt Schwitters) is the closest to what might be called a true stage set. Large hand-painted panels fill the end of one gallery space, forcing viewers to weave among them to circulate through to another space. The result is a purposefully exposed “back-stage” which questions the piece’s own illusion of space.
Other works seem to fit more comfortably in the category of illustration or model, but these still rarely play out as simple representations. While House no.8, Image no.1, with Layers and Masks by MOS Architects seems to be a simple, yet uncannily flat, model, its position in the middle of the gallery allows guests to peak through a peephole on its back side. This effectively filters the view of the rest of the gallery through the model. Sam Jacob’s Untitled touches on a similar effect with a model of a series of spaces divided by four translucent colored planes. The resulting confusion of space and scale looking at the model itself can be extended to the greater gallery space as one looks through it.
Johnston Marklee’s Teatro del Mare inversely makes the guest question the scale of the piece itself. The large model appears to be representing a scaled space, referencing the office’s Vault House. But the inclusion of a series of full-size objects designed by Rossi twists the perception of the piece from scale model to display case, and then back. The cheekiest of any of the pieces is Drop-Leaf Table in Oblique Elevation (with Drop-Leaf Table in Oblique Elevation) by Norman Kelley. A finely crafted piece of furniture in its own right, the Drop-Leaf Table is skewed, as if directly built from an axonometric drawing. Sitting against the gallery wall, like one might expect a similar piece of furniture, the table is also the display stand for a smaller flattened version of itself. It should also be noted that the leaves and a small drawer in the table, like those of the miniature version, don’t “work.” This makes the table, as well-made as it may be, about as useful as any other theater set piece.
Along with the other fascinating works from the likes of Charles Moore, baukuh, fala atelier, Emilio Ambasz, Monadnock, Pezo von Ellrichshausen, and more, the show is a delight for the academic, as well as those simply interested in beautiful images and objects. At the least one will get to see original pieces by Hockney and Rossi, and at the most one will gain a new respect for power of flatness to evoke space, and—dare I say—drama.
Spaces without drama or surface is an illusion, but so is depth is on show at The Graham Foundation through July 1, 2017.
Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts 4 W Burton Place, Chicago
City of Chicago reveal plans to combine public libraries and housing, and the architects behind them
For the past four years, Ragdale, an artist residency in Chicago’s North Shore, has asked young architects to reimagine a historic garden stage that was once a focal point of its property. In these short years, the Ragdale Ring competition, and the accompanying Adrian Smith Prize, have proven to be architecturally adventurous, and often playfully eccentric.
This year’s iteration will be built by the Ann Arbor, Michigan–based T+E+A+M, a collaboration among young designers Thom Moran, Ellie Abrons, Adam Fure, and Meredith Miller. Their proposal, entitled LIVING PICTURE, superimposes images of the original 1912 Ragdale Ring onto a set of lightweight objects spread throughout the grounds. The scene of the original ring will be an immersive, if not surreal, space for the audience to become part of the theatrical setting. The varied scale of the objects also allows for the audience to position itself in relation to the stage, either sitting on or standing among the installation. The shapes, which make up the stage itself, will blend historic imagery with the lush surroundings of the property.
While the imagery on the installation will mostly be seen as disparate yet related images, audience members approaching from the Ragdale House will see the entire original Ring snap into view. Watching from the other approaches, viewers will discover the scene as a series of separate vignettes of the original.
“At the beginning of this year we suspended our individual practices and committed fully to T+E+A+M, but the fact that the four of us have practiced individually is one of the unique strengths of our collaboration,” Fure explained. “Each of us has different audiences through our previous work’s engagement with conversations inside and outside the discipline.
The objects will range in form, making up seating areas and platforms for performances. Arranged in seven clusters, most of the objects will also be hollow to provide storage. Their arrangement centralizes the audience while providing masked areas where performers can enter from stage-side.
The project will be built in late May, to be ready for four performances starting in mid-July. T+E+A+M, along with a group of workers, will live at Ragdale for 18 days to build the installation. The Adrian Smith Prize, sponsored by Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture, provides $15,000 for the construction.
The members of T+E+A+M are not strangers to exhibition and installation building. Between the four members, their work has been shown in multiple Venice biennales and at the Beijing International Art Biennale, the Shenzhen and Hong Kong Biennale, the Storefront for Art and Architecture, and the Graham Foundation, to name just a few.
T+E+A+M will join the ranks of past Ragdale Ring designers SPORTS Collaborative, Bittertang, Design With Company, and Stephen Dietrich Lee. Last year’s iteration by SPORTS, entitled Rounds, won The Architect’s Newspaper’s 2016 Best of Design Award for Temporary Installation.
Atop a tall sand dune overlooking the southern shore of Lake Michigan sits one of the last remnants of the 1933 Chicago Century of Progress World’s Fair. In severe need of restoration, the House of Tomorrow, designed by Chicago architect George Fred Keck, is set to receive an update from a team of Chicago firms.
The announcement by Indiana Landmarks named bKL Architecture as the architecture and interior design lead. Bauer Latoza Studio will offer historic preservation services and Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates will be the structural engineer. Willoughby Engineering will handle mechanical, electrical, and plumbing engineering, and HJKessler Associates will act as the sustainability consultant.
In fall 2016, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Indiana Landmarks launched a $2.5-million campaign to restore the house after the Trust named it a National Treasure. At the time of the fair, the house was often referred to by the media as “America’s First Glass House,” and it was a beacon of modern technology for the World’s Fair’s 39 million visitors. The glass curtain walls came nearly 20 years before both Philip Johnson’s 1949 Glass House and Mies van der Rohe’s 1951 Farnsworth House, which sits only 90 miles directly to the west. Giving a view of an optimistic future, the home focused on how science and technology could improve everyday life.
The house’s innovations include an “iceless” refrigerator, the first-ever General Electric dishwasher, and copious amounts of glass for passive solar heating. Keck would later go on to design 300 other passive solar houses, mostly in the Chicago area, throughout his long career, but the House of Tomorrow remains a standout for its uncanny design.
The 12-sided home radiates from a central hub that contains mechanical equipment. Spoke-like steel girders cantilever from the center, supporting the second and third-floor concrete slabs. This unusual structural system allows for an open floor plan, which is also rare for its time. The plan for the restoration includes removing deteriorated surfaces and revealing this steel framework. The house’s iconic glass facade will be replaced with contemporary smart glass.
The story of the House of Tomorrow after the fair is almost as eccentric as the house itself. After the closing of the World’s Fair, a Chicago developer named Robert Bartlett commissioned a fleet of barges and trucks to move the house and four other houses from the exposition to their current resting place in Beverly Shores, Indiana. Bartlett’s plan was to develop a vacation hotspot for Chicago. While this may not have worked out for him, they have become a pilgrimage point for architects and beachgoers alike as part of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.
Though listed in the National Registry of Historic Places in the 1980s, the houses had fallen into severe disrepair by the 1990s. In order to save them, Indiana Landmarks was able to lease the homes from the National Parks Service and sublease four of them to individuals. Those sub-lessees were obliged to restore them, at their own expense, in exchange for long-term residency. The cost of restoration for the four houses was in excess of one million each, and the House of Tomorrow’s atypical materials and construction meant Indiana Landmarks would have to do the work itself.
But, with the naming of the restoration team and fundraising, the future of the House of Tomorrow is bright.