'making new history' at the chicago architecture biennial shows how to improve on history
 

'making new history' at the chicago architecture biennial shows how to improve on history

at this year’s chicago architecture biennial a gathering of young architects and emerging firms are being thrust into the spotlight as the event returns for its much-anticipated second edition. there is no rem koolhaas, no bjarke ingels, and no frank gehry, but instead the likes of pezo von ellrichshausen, OFFICE kersten geers david van severen, and ensamble studio are showcasing their quietly radical ideas in a determinedly starchitect-free zone. this year’s theme — selected by artistic directors sharon johnston and mark lee — is ‘make new history’, a subject matter that astutely allows participants to reflect on precedent while projecting a diverse array of future perspectives.

chicago architecture biennial round up
the chicago architecture biennial has returned for its much-anticipated second edition
image © tom harris (also main image)

 

 

‘I would say the commonality between most of the participants — even if their methodology, styles, and forms are very different — is that they all believe in a certain idea of evolutionary processes in architecture and city building as opposed to revolutionary and trying to break with the past,’ mark lee told designboom at the chicago architecture biennial’s opening. ‘another common element would be that some of the works tend to be quite subtle. when you first see it, it’s not something that necessary captures your eye, but if you pay more attention it begins to slowly unfold.’

chicago architecture biennial round up
‘vertical city’ revisits the pioneering 1922 chicago tribune tower competition
see more of the project on designboom here / image © designboom

 

 

this subtlety is evident throughout the chicago cultural center, the event’s 1897 neoclassical hub, however the displays are not without their moments of instant magic. perhaps most striking are the 17 abstract models of conceptual skyscrapers that tower above biennial guests. the exhibit, titled ‘vertical city’, revisits the pioneering 1922 chicago tribune tower competition, which attracted more than 260 entries from around the world. however, instead of paper-based presentations, an array of 16-foot-tall scaled models soars towards the historic ceiling, surrounding visitors with unconventional takes on high-rise architecture.


material connections: writers theatre, 2016 by studio gang
image © tom harris

 

 

‘for millennia, materiality connected architecture to its specific place on the planet and the people who created it,’ says studio gang, whose contribution highlights how the history and life cycle of building materials can inform architectural form making. the presented installation is a full-scale mock-up of a device used to test the structural capabilities of an innovative wood system the firm used in its design of the studio’s writers theatre project. experimentation with the material led to the development of a structural system that uses wood in tension to hang the building’s second-floor canopy walk from roof beams without mechanical fastening.

chicago architecture biennial round up
BLESS and artek customized a range of furniture for the biennial’s lounge
see more of the project on designboom here / image © designboom

 

 

an installation by BLESS — a collaborative berlin- and paris-based partnership that merges art, fashion, object, and furniture design — is typical of the biennial’s desire to integrate creative fields. the studio worked with finnish company artek to customize a range of furniture designed by ilmari tapiovaara in 1960. for the lounge, the team has not only dressed the collection with a range of garments, but has also introduced ‘fragmented architectural add-ons’ that transform the classic lounge chairs into small interior/exterior units or what it calls ‘architumiture’.

chicago architecture biennial round up
PIOVENEFABI’s furniture pieces reinterpret the architecture of milan’s subway system
see more of the project on designboom here / image © designboom

 

 

italian studio PIOVENEFABI has created a series of furniture pieces that reinterpret the architecture of milan’s subway system. titled ‘metropolitana’, the installation uses both materials and individual elements of the original network to create ‘a new domestic landscape’. a table made out of silipol, a colorful stained concrete, stands at the center of the space, while a bright red lamp evokes the metro’s familiar curving handrails.

chicago architecture biennial round up
baskets, 2007-2017 by aranda\lasch and terrol dew johnson
image © tom harris

 

 

for its response to the theme ‘make new history’, design studio aranda\lasch continues a longstanding collaboration with terrol dew johnson, a native american basket weaver from the tohono o’odham nation. in traditional o’odham culture, the social, spiritual, and material become entwined through the ritualistic making of everyday objects. consequently, the series of presented baskets explores the role that ritual plays in both traditional native craft and contemporary design.

chicago architecture biennial round up
pezo von ellrichshausen’s monumental grid of 729 framed watercolor studies fills the wall
see more of the project on designboom here / image © designboom

 

 

meanwhile, chilean practice pezo von ellrichshausen explores its ongoing interest in multiples. the studio, led by mauricio pezo and sofia von ellrichshausen, has organized a monumental grid of 729 framed watercolor studies on the wall, demonstrating an almost mathematical obsession. the illustrated explorations depict the serial sequencing of an imagined building form that is half tower and half plinth. ‘in our hypothetical approach, we are speculating with a potential idea of beginning, of the very moment in which history begins,’ the duo told designboom.

chicago architecture biennial round up
building portraits by atelier manfedini
image by steve hall © hall merrick photographers

 

 

elena manferdini’s ‘building portraits’ use images of mies van der rohe buildings to explore the potential of intricate scripted line work to depict building façades. the collection plays with the graphic potentials of woven colorful grids and scripted vector lines, while exploring the canonical relationships of shape versus form, ground versus figure, pattern versus coloration, and orientation versus posture. the title of the series alludes to two distinct disciplines: the architectural drawings of buildings, and fine art portraits. the work seeks to provide a working methodology towards a contemporary aesthetic of computational, directional, and dynamic grids.

chicago architecture biennial round up
caruso st john’s projects have been stripped of their contexts to stand as isolated architectural objects
see more of the project on designboom here / image © designboom

 

 

an exhibit by architecture firm caruso st john highlights the circulation of images, references, and histories between its own office and collaborators thomas demand and hélène binet. at the center of the room, five large models — a completed building, a design in development, and three competition proposals — have been positioned to create a city-like scene. conceived as a ‘constellation of figural volumes’, the caruso st john-designed projects have been stripped of their contexts to stand as isolated architectural objects.

chicago architecture biennial round up
randolph square, 2017 by frida escobedo
image by kendall mccaugherty © hall merrick photographers

 

 

an installation by mexican architect frida escobedo explores the nature of the grid in relation to modern urban planning, private property, and other such territorial organizations. beginning with a simple question — what happens when different systems of demarcation intersect? — escobedo’s intervention plays with the geometric characteristics of the cultural center’s architecture to create an ambiguous territory, intended to occupied in a variety of predictable and unpredictable ways.

chicago architecture biennial round up
the exhibition explores the concepts and forms that stem from SOM’s integrated practice
see more of the project on designboom here / image © designboom

 

 

off-site, a pop-up exhibition presented by mana contemporary in partnership with the chicago architecture biennial, documents the work of SOM and the concepts and forms that stem from the firm’s integrated practice of engineering, art, and architecture.the room is about scale and form,’ SOM partner bill baker told designboom. ‘we made a series of models at all the same scale. we only modeled the structure. the question is — is the architecture still there? and the answer, if it’s so integrated, is yes — even without the skin, the architecture is the same. if the design is so integrated between the structure and the architecture, then you cant describe one without describing the other — they go together,’ continued baker, who has led the firm’s structural and engineering practice for more than 20 years.

chicago architecture biennial round up
the chicago architecture biennial is free and open to the public until january 7, 2018
image by kendall mccaugherty © hall merrick photographers

 

 

on view until early next year, the chicago architecture biennial serves as a platform for an emerging generation of architects to showcase ideas and philosophies that, until now, have mainly existed on the periphery of architectural discourse. however, the biennial’s egalitarian principles also enable a broader discussion. ‘I think it’s very important for an exhibition to be accessible to the general public,’ says mark lee. the chicago architecture biennial is free and open to the public until january 7, 2018. follow designboom’s ongoing coverage here.

 

 

chicago architecture biennial round up

 

the second edition of the chicago architecture biennial (CAB) is the largest architecture and design exhibition in north america, showcasing the transformative global impact of creativity and innovation in these fields. this year’s biennial features over 141 practitioners from more than 20 countries addressing the 2017 theme ‘make new history.’ artistic directors sharon johnston and mark lee have selected architects and artists whose eye-opening creations will invite the public to explore how the latest architecture can and will make new history in places around the world.

 

CAB is hosted by the chicago department of cultural affairs and special events at the historic chicago cultural center. the ‘make new history’ exhibition extends to off-site locations and is amplified through six community anchor exhibitions in the neighborhoods and two special project sites — plus installations, performances, talks, films, and more hosted by over 100 local and global cultural partners.

 

the main exhibition is free and open to the public from september 16, 2017 through january 7, 2018.

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