Posts tagged with "Johnston Marklee":
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Although the Chicago Architecture Biennial (CAB) has begun to reveal the themes guiding this year’s exhibition, only a few details have slipped out regarding the physical content of the show. Rumors have it though that many of the large exhibition spaces within the Chicago Cultural Center will be organized by installations in which multiple participants have produced variations on a form or typology. One of these installations is reportedly going to be comprised of a room full of 16-foot-tall models of Tribune Tower submissions, each designed and fabricated by a different office. Many in Chicago are anxious to see which direction artistic directors Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee—both architects not professional curators—are going to take the largest North American architectural exhibition.
A reimagined public space in the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (MCA) is being designed and built by Los Angeles–based Johnston Marklee and Mexico City–based Pedro&Juana. A new restaurant will also be designed by Turner Prize–winning British painter Chris Ofili. Pedro&Juana was introduced to Chicago through the 2015 Chicago Architecture Biennial, with its major installation in the Randolph Square space in the Chicago Cultural Center, entitled Dear Randolph. Like that installation, the social space the firm is designing for the MCA, which will be called The Commons, will be a colorful environment of large custom-made hanging elements. The space’s colorful planters and ornate chandeliers will be a stark departure from the normally austere spaces of the MCA. Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee, also the artistic directors of the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial, are leading the redesign. The entire $16 million project is expected to be completed by June of this year.
Architect: Johnston Marklee, Pedro&Juana, Chris Ofili Client: Musem of Contemporary Art Chicago Location: Chicago Completion Date: June 2017
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.
The University of Chicago has announced plans for a new arts and cultural center called the Arts Block. Leading the design is Los Angeles–based Johnston Marklee in collaboration with community partners. The new center will be located in Washington Park along East Garfield Boulevard on the South Side of Chicago. The new Arts Block expands the university’s efforts to fill vacant buildings near campus with a mix of studios alongside performance and exhibition spaces. The Arts Block will join the Currency Exchange Café, BING Art Books, the Arts Incubator, and the Place Lab at the Green Line Arts Center. The proposed design maintains the 1920s terra-cotta facade on the building that is currently on the site. Along with the redevelopment of the Arts Block, a vacant lot in the area will be transformed into an open-air pavilion.
Chicago artist Theaster Gates, professor at the college’s Department of Visual Arts and director of Arts + Public Life, has been spearheading the efforts to transform the 100,000-square-foot development along Garfield Boulevard.
Architect: Johnston Marklee Client: University of Chicago Location: Chicago, IL Completion Date: 2017