Gallery 400 at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) is holding dual exhibitions exploring the past and the future of the UIC campus. Back to the Future: Visualizing the Arts at UIC and The Netsch Campus: Materializing the Public at UIC bring together architects and designers to imagine a new arts site, while looking at Walter Netsch’s original vision for the campus. Back to the Future: Visualizing the Arts at UIC presents three speculative proposals by teams of architects and designers. Teams member include: Sarah Dunn, Kelly Bair, Maya Nash, and Cheryl Towler Weese; Sam Jacob, Alexander Eisenschmidt, and Mischa Leiner; Andrew Zago, Sarah Blankenbaker, and Sharon Oiga. Each team’s design engages with Netsch’s campus, while bringing together the currently separated arts programs around campus. The designs also symbolize the ambitions of the university and act as a gateway into the city. The Netsch Campus: Materializing the Public at UIC explores the Field Theory design of UIC. Opened in 1967, the complex Walter Netsch design was never completed. The exhibition displays original drawings, sketches, and watercolors of the campus’s design. Photographs by Orlando Cabanban show the portions of the campus that were completed. Complementing the new designs, the show includes never-before-displayed watercolor rendering of a consolidated arts building in Chicago’s West loop. The concurrent shows were co-curated by Judith K. De Jong and Lorelei Stewart and will run in Gallery 400 August 10th through August 27th. There will be a public reception on August 18th and guided tours are available throughout the run.
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And then there were four. The committee in charge of picking a site for President Barack Obama’s presidential library and museum narrowed the playing field to four illustrious institutions of higher learning, with two in Chicago. The University of Chicago, University of Illinois at Chicago, Columbia University, and the University of Hawaii have until December 11 to submit their bids, just in time to kick back and sip some eggnog while the president gears up for his last two years in office.
From the abandoned foundations of the ill-fated Chicago Spire to the ghosts of would-be Tribune Towers galore, Chicago’s unbuilt legacy could rival the iconic skyline it actually achieved. An exhibition on display downtown, dubbed City Works: Provocations for Chicago’s Urban Future, confronts the city with its alternative skyline in the form of a panoramic wall design and a “Phantom Chicago” iPhone app. The overall effect evokes “a dream but also a nightmare,” in the words of curator Alexander Eisenschmidt. It also presents “a series of urban environments that are typical for Chicago,” meditating through the work of four prominent local designers on some of the city’s contemporary challenges: waterways, industry, shelter, and vacancy. To borrow Eisenschmidt’s metaphor, the aim is to turn potential nightmares into visionary dreams. Studio Gang’s work on urban waterways is well-known and their work here, titled “Reclaiming the Edge,” reprises the vision they laid out in Reverse Effect and other publications: a riverfront community and restored natural habitat nourish each other in a kind of urban symbiosis. After years of legal wrangling, Chicago’s Water Reclamation District will soon disinfect the wastewater it dumps back into the river, signaling some substantive progress on water quality. Meanwhile the Chicago Riverwalk grows along the waterway's main branch. UrbanLab / Sarah Dunn & Martin Felsen present “Free Water District,” a vision that also draws on Chicago’s aquatic resources. Rust Belt cities share many challenges stemming from deindustrialization, but they also share a common asset: water. UrbanLab’s piece envisions a Great Lakes region revitalized by water-focused industries, in a “megastructure-scaled public/private land/water partnership.” Stanley Tigerman offers a rumination on shelter in both the spatial and spiritual sense with “Displacement of the Gridiron with the Cloister.” His target is the “ineffable in architecture,” which is philosophical enough to mean many things to many people who might have very different ideas of the city’s urban aspirations. “The Available City” by David Brown displays a similar yearning, manifesting the city’s 15,000 city-owned vacant lots as blots of color bubbling up amid fractured neighborhoods. The bright colors, which appear to denote potential programs for unused space, could mean anything — adaptive reuse, public space, space-age capsule hotel — but the important thing is they reanimate dead spaces that total an area twice the size of the Loop. All four panoramas will eventually connect, sharing continuous topographic or development features. But until the closing days of the show they remain separate, traveling slowly along dotted lines that traverse the small exhibition space. “By pulling them apart,” Eisenschmidt said, “there’s a little suspense.” City Works, adapted from the 2013 Biennale in Venice, returned to its city of origin May 24. And these “provocations” are not Eisenschmidt’s first. In 2011 the University of Illinois at Chicago professor’s Visionary Chicago (reviewed here for A|N by Philip Berger) stirred conversation about bold building while the real estate market languished. The free show is open at Expo 72, 72 E. Randolph St., seven days per week through September 29. Listen to a conference on the topic, held September 22, 2012 and recorded by WBEZ. Watch 50 meters of the "Phantom Chicago" wall panorama scroll by: