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An Overview of the Chicago Architecture Biennial 2017

By Arts & Culture

“I hope you will understand that architecture has nothing to do with the invention of forms, it is not a playground for children, young or old. Architecture wrote the history of the epochs and gave them their names.” — Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.

“Make New History,” the second edition of the Chicago Architecture Biennial, was unveiled at the Chicago Cultural Center on September 16, 2017. The curators, Los Angeles architects Sharon Johnson and Mark Lee, selected over 141 architects and artists from twenty different countries. The driving question of the Biennial is how can the latest architecture create new history in places across the world?

Unlike its earlier edition, this year’s Chicago Architecture Biennial launched with Expo Chicago. Expanding from the hub of the Chicago Cultural Center, the Biennial is exhibited in six museums and art centers around the city — Beverly Art Center, DePaul Art Museum, DuSable Museum of African American History, Hyde Park Art Center, The National Museum of Mexican, and The National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture — in order to highlight the cultural identity of different neighborhoods in Chicago. The Biennial is open to the public through January 7, 2018.

This year’s biennial employs a photographic lens to reflect upon architectural practice. By adopting historical references in their contemporary practices, the participants imagine a new history of architecture. Through different media such as photo collages, 3D prints, photographic light projections, and photo installations, the architects and artists translate the three-dimensional space of architecture onto a two-dimensional surface. This shift toward a two-dimensional abstract surface allows the freedom to approach space anew.

The Room of One’s Own: The Architecture of the Private Room, Dogma (Brussels, Belgium). Photo by Haerim Lee

On the third Floor of the Cultural Center, there are 45 computer rendered drawings on a bright pink wall. Each rendering reveals an interior room drawn with gray lines on a white background. Adopting English writer Virginia Woolf’s essay, “A Room of One’s Own,” Belgian architects Dogma depict the domestic space of artists, writers, innovators, and architects, such as Virginia Woolf, Frida Kahlo, and Martin Luther King. An empty room with a yoga mat reveals the identity of the inhabitant, Steve Jobs. Although three large books on pedestals trace the history of the room as the origin of architecture itself, it is more captivating to observe the delicate details and intimate moments captured in the drawings themselves.

National Gallery, Veronika Kellndorfer (Berlin, Germany). Photo by Haerim Lee

Veronika Kellndorfer printed large scale photographs of Mies van der Rohe’s New National Gallery in Berlin on sheets of glass. The scale creates an architectural presence in the space of the gallery. The artist examines the raw materiality of Mies van der Rohe’s architecture of glass and steel. The contrast between the opaque image of the architecture and the transparent negative space of the glass casts shadows on the wall. Although the work itself is two-dimensional, the interplay of reflection and surface creates layered dimensions.

  • She Knows She Is In Chicago, Marianne Muller (Zurich, Switzerland). Photo by Haerim Lee
  • She Knows She Is In Chicago, Marianne Muller (Zurich, Switzerland). Photo by Haerim Lee
  • She Knows She Is In Chicago, Marianne Muller (Zurich, Switzerland). Photo by Haerim Lee

There are illusionistic photographs of the Chicago Cultural Center in the Horizontal city section on the second floor. It is hard to perceive the building because of this maneuver. Swiss artist Marianne Muller photographed interior spaces of the Chicago Cultural Center. She installed large scale prints of portions of the building interiors in the vitrines at G.A.R. Hall, the photographs trick the eye and question how two-dimensional photography penetrate into three-dimensional space.

Infinitely Intimate, Karamuk *Kuo Architects (Cambridge, USA/ Zurich, Switzerland). Photo by Haerim Lee

Karamuk *Kuo Architects constructed a scaled model of the Adolf Loos’s American Bar in Vienna as a site of cultural exchange. The American Bar in Vienna stands as a symbol of a new wave of modernity. Intellectual figures including artist Egon Schiele, psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, and musician Arnold Schoenberg, shared their ideas there. The scale of the model and historical references create an intimate atmosphere. The experience is very different inside, expanding the vision and view of tricks by using mirrors, and allows the viewer to see infinite space through the model.

 

  • Marker, Daniel Everett (Chicago, USA). Photo by Haerim Lee
  • Marker, Daniel Everett (Chicago, USA). Photo by Haerim Lee

On the first floor of the hallway, Daniel Everett’s digital collage of images of construction occurring in Chicago reveals how the urban cityscape transforms. He captured mundane contemporary moments of construction of buildings in the city. However, there is a sense of ambiguity in the collage. Large scale post-production photographs implement different nuances and tension. The location and scale of the photographs imply walking around the city of Chicago.

Chicago Series, Philipp Schaerer (Zurich, Switzerland). Photo by Haerim Lee.

There are several Chicago Series on the first-floor hallway. Because of the matte paper texture and abstract geometric forms, the photographs look like paintings or pieces of print media. Artist Philipp Schaerer generates digital images adopting the idea of sampling and cropping existing satellite photographs. He explores the language of architectural drawing and documentary photography, allowing him to juxtapose the two media and create abstract visual forms.

#15 from the Circus book(up), Collage for Exhibition Installation (bottom) , Gordon Matta-Clark’s (New York City, USA). Photo by Haerim Lee

On the second floor of the exhibition space, it may be hard to find Gordon Matta-Clark’s collage work on the wall because of its relatively small scale. The juxtaposition of the photographs with the drawings became a whimsical playground for operating the three- dimensional space. It became an imaginative space, and the artwork suggests the historical space and traces of the architectural collage.

  • Ghostbox, T+E+A+M (Michigan, USA). Photo by Haerim Lee
  • Construction and References, Caruso St John with Thomas Demand and Helene Binet (London, UK/ Los Angeles, USA). Photo by Haerim Lee
  • Infinitely Intimate, Karamuk *Kuo Architects (Cambridge, USA/ Zurich, Switzerland). Photo by Haerim Lee
  • The Art Deco Building, WORKac with photography by James Ewing (New York, USA). Photo by Haerim Lee
  • Comsic Latte: Architecture Beige Manifesto, Jurgen Mayer H. and Philip Ursprung (Berlin, Germany/ Zurich, Swizerlnd). Photo by Haerim Lee
  • Parking & More, HHF Architect (Basel, Switerland). Photo by Haerim Lee
  • The Cast of Things, The LADG (Los Angeles, USA). Photo by Haerim Lee
  • Sculpture,Chapel in the Valley junya (front), ishigami+associates (Tokyo, Japan). Finite Format 04 (back), Pezo von Ellrichshausen (Concepcion, Chile). Photo by Haerim Lee
  • The Architecture of Creative Miscegenation, Marshall Brown (Chicago, USA). Photo by Haerim Lee
  • Morning Cleaning, Mies van der Rohe Foundation, Bercelona (1999), View from Above (2017) Norman Kelley (Chicago/New York, USA). Photo by Haerim Lee
  • Front installation, Prima Materia Studio Mumbai (Mumbai, India) Back photo wall, Portraits I-VI (Geneva and Zurich, Switzerland). Photo by Haerim Lee
  • Charlap Hyman & Herrero (New York/ Los Angeles, USA). Photo by Haerim Lee
  • BLESS, N°60 Lobby Conquerors in dialogue with Artek furniture classics (Berlin, Germany). Photo by Haerim Lee
  • Robotic Craftsmanship: Making New History with Traditional Materials, Archi-Union Architects (Shanghai, China). Photo by Haerim Lee
  • Chicago Architecture Biennial 2017. Photo by Haerim Lee
  • Filip Dujardin (Ghent, Belgium). Photo by Haerim Lee
  • Construction and References, Caruso St John with Thomas Demand and Helene Binet (London, UK/ Los Angeles, USA). Photo by Haerim Lee
  • Front installation, Prima Materia, Studio Mumbai (Mumbai, India). Back drawings, Desenhos de Trabalho (Working Drawing), Ricardo Bak Gordon (Lisbon, Portugal). Photo by Haerim Lee
  • Farnworth House/ Crown Hall, Lusia Lambri (Milan, Italy). Photo by Haerim Lee
  • National Gallery, Veronika Kellndorfer (Berlin, Germany). Photo by Haerim Lee
  • #15 from the Circus book (top), Collage for Exhibition. Installation (bottom), Gordon Matta-Clark’s (New York City, USA. Photo by Haerim Lee
  • Groundscapes, Dominiques Perrault Architecture (Paris, France). Photo by Haerim Lee
  • The Grand Interior, MAIO (Barcelona, Spain). Photo by Haerim Lee

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