The Chicago Architecture Biennial is coming. Sign up for it.

The Chicago Architecture Biennial is coming. Sign up for it.
Entrance Perspective, Frank Lloyd Wright's "La Minatura", Millard House. Innovative design in Pasadena, CA. 1923.

October 3rd marks the beginning of the first ever Chicago Architecture Biennial. The State of the Art of Architecture, starts in October and runs for three months, concluding on January 3, 2016. As with all good things, there are ways you can get in on the action starting now.

The Frank Lloyd Wright Trust, a partner in the Biennial, recently announced they are sponsoring a talk by architect John Ronan at the Chicago Cultural Center on Sunday, October 4th, the opening weekend of the Biennial.  It’s free, but you have to register. Do that today. Space is likely to fill up.

Ronan’s talk is titled Transcending Pragmatism: Searching for a New Chicago and is part of the FLW Trust annual Thinking into the Future: The Robie House Series on Architecture, Design and Ideas.  The Robie Series is intended to employ Wright’s “future thinking philosophy expressed in the Robie House” to “explore current ideas and issues in architecture, design, and society that stimulate debate about our world in the 21st century from a local to a global perspective.”

Ronan is among the first group of architects chosen to be featured in the Architecture Biennial. He designed the award-winning Poetry Foundation building on W. Superior St. in Chicago.

In this, the 5th Robie House lecture. Ronan will be discussing “his views on Chicago architecture and practicing within its building culture.” A careful sentence, revealing little, but Ronan’s prominence and the intelligence of his practice mean that this will be a talk worth hearing.

As for me, I have what anyone would call a ‘less-than passing’ acquaintance with John Ronan. His innovative High School design in Perth Amboy, New Jersey was the subject of a chapter in a book project for a design competition I photographed here in Chicago.

Design competitions are tricky things. They bring out great ideas. The work involved is considerable. Emerging brilliance is the defining characteristic. Many times, the winning buildings don’t get made, but the efforts bring forth genius. This all contributes to the profession, and ideally, better buildings are made, overall, as result.

The Architecture Biennial is this kind of effort; broad, brilliant, and intended to bring a conversation about innovation and design more broadly into the public realm.

Thinking into the Future is an annual lecture presented by the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust, engaging leading international, national, and Chicago voices in architecture, design, and contemporary culture that point the direction to a bright and promising future for the next generation.

I’ll see you at the Cultural Center on October 4th to hear how John Ronan sees this future.

In the meantime, here are some recent photos I made of the lovely FLW-designed Millard house (1923) in Pasadena CA.

Entrance to the Millard House, Pasadena, CA. FLW

Entrance to the Millard House, Pasadena, CA. FLW

Wright called it “La Miniatura”. It was his first ‘textile block’ house, an experiment in ‘modular housing’ and an exploration of a new material.

Millard House, "La Miniatura". FLW, Pasadena, CA

Millard House, “La Miniatura”. FLW, Pasadena, CA

It’s said that Wright chose concrete in an effort to make something beautiful out of the cheapest and ugliest material.

Light and Shadow, Millard House. Pasadena, CA. FLW

Light and Shadow, Millard House. Pasadena, CA. FLW

The term ‘textile block’ comes from their texture resembling richly woven fabric.

Concrete block construction. FLW

Concrete block construction. FLW

Wright intended them to be an inexpensive and accessible building material for ordinary people.

Blended along the ravine. Millard House, Pasadena CA. FLW

Blended along the ravine. Millard House, Pasadena CA. FLW

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