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  • Kacy Middleton


In a few weeks, Chicago will be hosting one of it's finest exhibits of the year, the Architecture Biennial. The event's main hub is the Chicago Cultural Center, who will be hosting a variety of programmed events and performances. Over 140 architects will be participating in this years biennial, continuing the legacy of Chicago's epic architectural history.

The biennial kicks off on September 16th in conjunction with Expo Chicago, one of Chicago's largest contemporary art fairs held at Navy Pier, and will be active through early January of 2018. A list of anchor sites will also be participating in the event including Depaul Art Museum, National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture, National Museum of Mexican Art, Hyde Park Art Center, Dusable Museum of African American History, and Beverly Art Center.

Chicago as a city is somewhat of an architecture museum. Downtown houses some of the most renowned structures from architecture's most historic players, and contemporary architects continue to design ground breaking work. It's the perfect stage for a celebration of both the history of architecture and it's current terrain (hence "Make New History" as the events theme). Not only can architects share new work and explore ideas but the biennial is opens wide arms to the greater public.

The extensive programming surrounding the event is definitely what goers need to tap into. There will be a series of high profile lectures, film screenings coordinating with the Chicago International Film Festival, forums, pin-up exhibitions, and a variety of partner programs. We narrowed down our top 5 have-to-go programs that will be taking a place during the fair to give you some footing on a wonderfully overwhelming event.

1) SO-IL & Ana Prvački: L’air pour l’air

When: Saturday, September 16th 4-7pm

Where: Garfield Park Conservatory

What: In concurrence with architect Francois Perrin's installation at Garfield Park Conservatory's Palm House, architects SO–IL and artist Ana Prvački will stage a poetic collaboration called L’air pour l’air. They have created an ensemble of air-filtering mesh enclosures, designed to be worn by musicians playing a composition for wind instruments by the composer Veronica Kraussas. The musical piece will debut during the Biennial's opening week and the public will then be invited to learn more about mask/shelter enclosures, which are inspired by the plants in the Conservatory, during ongoing educational sessions taking place throughout the Biennial. The project touches on the continuities between people, objects, and nature through a medium as ubiquitous as air.

2) The Neue Nationalgalerie

When: Thursday, November 30th 6:30-9:00pm

Where: Chicago Cultural Center

What: Directed by Ina Weisse (2017)

Beautifully filmed in black-and-white, this documentary chronicles the history and renovation of the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin, the last building designed by Mies van der Rohe. With fascinating insights into the original building process and intimate interviews with van der Rohe himself, the film also skillfully connects Berlin’s post-WWII reconstruction project with the museum’s more recent renovations. A fitting tribute to Mies’ work and a cinematic exercise in simplicity that would make him proud.

3) Gerard + Kelly: Modern Living

When: Saturday, September 16th 1:00pm-7:30pm

Where: Farnsworth House (shuttles provided)

What: multidisciplinary artists Gerard & Kelly will present a new chapter of their site-specific project, Modern Living, with performances September 16 at the iconic Farnsworth House in nearby Plano, IL, designed in 1945 by Mies van der Rohe for Edith Farnsworth. Initially a pioneer of modernist architecture, commissioning Mies to design a radical statement for living, Farnsworth famously found the transparency of the house unlivable. These performances build upon the first two chapters of Modern Living at the Schindler House in West Hollywood, California, and Phillip Johnson’s Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut, in which Gerard & Kelly used the architecture as choreography for intimate relationships. At the Farnsworth House, Gerard & Kelly create a performance score that explores “the juxtaposition of one WO and one MAN” in temporary constellations occupying the interior and exterior spaces of the site, reflecting on the condition of solitude.

4) Matter / Structure / Architecture: A Conversation with Yasmil Raymond and Tomas Saraceno

When: Thursday, October 5th 6:00-8:00pm

Where: Chicago Cultural Center

What: Berlin-based Argentinian artist Tomás Saraceno creates large-scale installations informed by his ongoing research into the worlds of art, architecture, natural sciences, astrophysics, and engineering. Join us for a conversation between Saraceno and MoMA curator Yasmil Raymond, in which she will delve into the artist’s work and current ideas and interests. Presented by the Arts, Science & Culture Initiative and the Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry at UChicago, the Chicago Architecture Biennial, and the Goethe-Institute Chicago.

5) Making History - Frank Lloyd Wright at the Global Crossroads: Chicago / Tokyo / NYC / LA

When: Thursday, November 16th 6:00-7:30pm

Where: Chicago Cultural Center

What: Ken Tadashi Oshima, president of the Society of Architectural Historians and Professor of Architecture at the University of Washington discusses with Biennial Artistic Directors Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee, the global design practice of Frank Lloyd Wright in "making history" in the contemporary context. Building on new findings from the 2017 Museum of Modern Art exhibition Frank Lloyd Wright at 150: Unpacking the Archive, the discussion with Johnston and Lee will focus on precedents and parallels with the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial.This event is organized by the Society of Architectural Historians, a nonprofit membership organization that promotes the study, interpretation, and conservation of architecture, design, landscapes, and urbanism worldwide. SAH serves a network of local, national, and international institutions and individuals who, by profession or interest, focus on the history of the built environment and its role in shaping contemporary life. SAH promotes meaningful public engagement with the history of the built environment through advocacy efforts, print and online publications, and local, national, and international programs.


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