The second annual Chicago Architecture Biennial (CAB) begins on Saturday, September 16th. There is no city better poised to hold the largest architecture and design exhibition in North America than Chicago. Chicago is famous for its world class architecture and is home of the very first skyscraper.
This year Chicago has boldly acknowledged the relationship between architecture and art by overlapping two momentous fairs: the Chicago Architecture Biennial and EXPO Chicago.
The theme this year, set by Artistic Directors Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee, is “Make New History.” To illustrate this theme, Johnston and Lee have selected over 140 professionals from over 20 different countries. This curated group of architects and artists have designed exhibits that will illuminate how the latest architectural developments can and will make new history throughout the world. By examining the past, we can expect contributors to reinterpret historical architectural designs and enhancing them to suit the needs of modern life and modern environments.
In line with 2015, the list of participants is refreshingly comprised mostly of rising star architectural firms. Unlike others, CAB focuses on the quality of firms and does not feel pressured to include more. Architectural Digest has lets us know there will be no celebrity architects participating, although noteworthy exceptions include Stanley Tigerman and Pritzker-winning Japanese firm SANAA.
The Chicago Cultural Center will be the main site for the Chicago Architecture Biennial. With its windows bedecked in architectural illustrations, the interior will focus on the spatial experience of the exhibition according to AD. Given the feedback from 2015’s biennial, Johnston and Lee have invested in studying what the space will feel like to visitors and how the overall experience will feel.
To enhance the visitor experience, participants have been commissioned to build what architectural environments within the Chicago Cultural Center. Just like in 2015 these environments will engage visitors differently: some spaces might offer seating for rest or conversation, while other spaces might further the conversation about the intersection of art and architecture.
One highlight from last year was the installation by Atelier Bow-Wow of Tokyo. Taking an otherwise inaccessible courtyard space, it was transformed into a real-life Piranesi drawing. By installing ramps, ladders, and a floating stairway a top a bed of evergreen branches, Atelier Bow-Wow mesmerized visitors and kept us intrigued. Installations such as this are what keep us looking forward to this year’s biennial.
In addition to the Chicago Cultural Center, there will be multiple anchor sites throughout various Chicago neighborhoods. These anchor sites will each have their own programming unique to their history and their contributions to both art and architecture.
We are enthusiastically looking forward to visiting the DuSable Museum of African American History’s exhibit Singing Stones. Singing Stones, curated by the Palais de Tokyo’s Katell Jaffrès with exhibition design by Andrew Schachman. Shachman was nominated by the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts. Singing Stones brings together 11 emerging artists from both the French and Chicago art communities, as part of the Institut Français’ first off-site exhibition in the United States.
Presented at The Roundhouse, Singing Stones will continue to explore dialogue between architecture and the artistic process. A portion of the original works will be in dialogue with the surrounding architectural envelope: These original works will distinguish themselves by providing an artistically supportive frame for the works of other exhibiting artists.
The anchor site of the DuSable Museum is completely apropos for this exhibition. This historic Chicago location plays off of the biennial’s “Make New History” theme by achieving just that: Hosting the first ever Palais de Tokyo US exhibition, housed within a historic building by a fêted Chicago architect. Furthermore, it illustrates the symbiotic relationship of how art exhibits embrace and work dependently with their unyielding architectural environment, reinforcing Expo’s acknowledgement of the relationship across these disciplines.
Strengthening Chicago’s opinion of the inherent relationship of art and architecture is the Art Institute of Chicago’s exhibit set to coincide with the biennial: Past Forward: Architecture and Design at the Art Institute.
This new installation will be entirely devoted to the museum’s influential collection of architectural drawings and furniture, graphic, and industrial designs of the 20th and 21st centuries as explained by the museum. Much like the Chicago Architecture Biennial, this Modern Wing display will be the first of its kind in the United States.
As a multidisciplinary firm with infinite talent, we couldn’t be more thrilled that Chicago has acknowledged the important and influential relationship between architecture and art.
Be sure to check in next week as we prepare for EXPO Chicago and follow us on Instagram as we attend these events!