Chicago Architecture Biennial: 10 things to love

Chicago Architecture Biennial: 10 things to love
Vertical City. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

It’s official the 2nd annual Chicago Architecture Biennial (CAB) is now up and running. It opened to the public on Saturday, September 16, 2017 and continues through January 7, 2018.

If you thought the 2015 CAB was good, you’re going to love 2017. But you better get started–there’s so much to see.

Curated by Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee, the 2017 Biennial showcases the transformative global impact of creativity and innovation through the works of over 140 of the world’s top designer’s from 20 countries who have put their best foot forward addressing the theme Make New History.

Here are 10 places to get started:

The Chicago Cultural Center

Although you’ll see references to the CAB throughout the city, the Chicago Cultural Center is the hub for the event–and the best place to start your journey.

Formerly, the Chicago Public Library, the Cultural Center is an architectural gem, designed by the architecture firm Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge (1897), from its Tiffany Dome to its beautiful mosaics.

Staircase inside the Chicago Cultural Center. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

Staircase inside the Chicago Cultural Center. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

Once inside, you can start at the top (the 4th floor) and work your way down, or on the 1st floor and work your way up. Climb the magnificent staircase, located inside the Washington Street entrance (78 E. Washington) or take the elevator. There’s lots to see, but if you are limited for time, head to the 4th floor and check out

1. Vertical City

The Yates Gallery on the 4th floor of the Cultural Center hosts an  impressive Vertical City of 17 scaled models–each standing at a height of 16 feet that re-imagine Chicago’s Tribune Tower (Howell’s and Hood’s neo-Gothic masterpiece on North Michigan Avenue). The exhibit revisits the 1922 Chicago Tribune Tower competition, that resulted in the current structure through innovative present day uses and designs for the structure. (Vertical City pictured at top of post).

2. A Room of One’s Owncabroom-1

The display pays tribute to private spaces and rooms showing how rooms have changed over time through historical drawings. Famous bedrooms from the past include Virginia Woolfe’s bedroom, Steve Jobs living room and others.

3. Totemscabtotems-1

Totems makes use of “junk” turning it into usable habitats. Built of objects collected over time developed by Point Supreme out of Athens, Greece in conjunction with a 1955 bungalow project illustrate ways to build during troubled financial times.

4. Chairs (Lobby Conquerors)


Photo: Jodie Jacobs.

Lobby Conquerors by Bless (Berlin, Germany) in the 4th Floor Lobby of the Cultural Center invites interaction while re-thinking the conventions of fashion. The “chairs” offer a series of options for dressing furniture for private use. The exhibition also offers a fun stop on the tour where visitors can interact while trying out the furniture.

5. Studio Gang (Material Connections)

Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

Chicago’s own Jeanne Gang who leads Studio Gang Architects, is responsible for this impressive wood structure–a full-scale mock up of the wood structure that Studio Gang used to support the second floor canopy at Writer’s Theatre in Glencoe (completed 2016).

The installation, Material Connections, explores the history and lifecycle of building materials while engaging with social, political, economic and philosophical issues.

Next stop,

6. Expo 72

Expo 72, an exploration of Chicago’s river systems presents some exciting perspectives. The main exhibit is located just across the street from the Cultural Center in the Expo 72 Gallery at 72 E. Randolph Street. Design concepts are on display at The River Edge Idea Lab which opened September 16 will run through January 8, 2018.

Of special interest are the expansion plans for the Chicago Riverwalk that currently runs from Columbus to Lake St. but is projected to be expanded to Ping Tom Park in Chinatown.

From there, head to…

7. The Art Instituteaictitantic-1

Smaller than the CAB installation, but significant, you’ll find The Art Institute of Chicago’s exhibition (135 S. Michigan) Past Forward: Architecture and Design on the 2nd floor of The Modern Wing in Gallery 285. The exhibit showcases the many voices of architecture and design from Daniel H. Burnham and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe to contemporary practitioners such as Studio Gang, and Yuri Suzuki.

Pictured above, Stanley Tigerman’s 1978 conceptual collage showing Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s iconic Crown Hall on the IIT campus sinking into Lake Michigan–representing whether to move on or stay in the past. Tigerman makes it obvious how he feels.

8. The Chicago Architectural Foundation

The Chicago Architectural Foundation (224 S. Michigan) has an exciting new exhibit, Between States: Design Solutions for Chicago’s 50 Wards that showcases ideas from 50 designers for community-based solutions for Chicago’s in-between spaces for catalyzing investment in Chicago’s 50 wards.

9. DePaul Art Museum

The DePaul Art Museum (935 W Fullerton), a Community Anchor Site of the Chicago Architecture Biennial is showcasing two architectural installations, Zip Zap and Zumbi by Ângela Ferreira (Luso-South African, b. Mozambique 1958). The work explores the translation of forms and ideas across intertwined geographies and histories. Through these works, Ferreira points to how the plans can become adaptable to other uses, contexts, lives, and events. Now through December 10, 2017.

10. Wingspread and the SC Johnson Campus

The Frank Lloyd Wright designed Wingspread in Racine, WI. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

The Frank Lloyd Wright designed Wingspread in Racine, WI. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

We took this FREE tour provided by the SC Johnson Company two years ago and would highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in architecture and especially Frank Lloyd Wright.

Participants will visit the Frank Lloyd Wright–designed Administration Building (opened in 1939) and Research Tower (opened in 1950), as well as the newly refurbished 1940s office of SC Johnson’s former president H. F. Johnson Jr. and Fortaleza Hall, designed by Foster + Partners.

On weekends the tour includes a shuttle to Wingspread–the last and largest of Wright’s Prairie-style houses–designed for H. F. Johnson Jr. in the late 1930s.

Tours Depart from Chicago Cultural Center, 77 E Randolph St. Reservations required.

Subscribe to Show Me Chicago by email

If you would like to keep in touch with what’s happening in Chicago, like us on Facebook or subscribe to Show Me Chicago by email. To subscribe, type your email address in the box below and click the “create subscription” button. Our list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.

Filed under: Art.

Leave a comment

  • Advertisement:
  • Advertisement:
  • ChicagoNow is full of win

    Welcome to ChicagoNow.

    Meet our bloggers,
    post comments, or
    pitch your blog idea.

  • Meet The Blogger

    Carole Kuhrt Brewer

    Arts, entertainment and dining journalist..

  • Follow me on Twitter.

  • Recent posts

  • Categories

  • Latest on ChicagoNow

  • Advertisement: