The Chicago Architecture Biennial

July 31, 2016 by Laura Gomez



What is The State of the Art of Architecture today? More than a profession or a repertoire of built artifacts, architecture is a dynamic cultural practice that permeates fundamental registers of everyday life—from housing to education, from environmental awareness to economic growth, from local communities to global networks. In an age of accelerated change, today’s architects, artists, designers, planners, and activists are developing an extraordinary range of visionary ideas that test the limits of these realms of everyday life. As a platform for the creative breakthroughs that are reimagining the ways we inhabit and shape the world around us, the Chicago Architecture Biennial brings an international and intergenerational network of architectural talent together to explore the ambitions, challenges and possibilities that are fueling the architectural imagination today and steering the future of the field.

The State of the Art of Architecture offers an opportunity to take stock of architectural projects and experiments from around the world, establishing a broad foundation for future editions of the Chicago Architecture Biennial. With an incredible breadth of design approaches, research interests, and cultural perspectives, it offers a global stage for debate and the exchange of ideas.

The inaugural Chicago Architecture Biennial takes its title, The State of the Art of Architecture, from a 1977 conference organized by architect Stanley Tigerman, which invited leading American designers to Chicago to discuss the current state of the field. The Chicago Architecture Biennial expands the spirit and scope of this event. It invites both emerging and established practices from across the world to Chicago to demonstrate how groundbreaking advances in architectural design are tackling the most pressing issues of today. In this way it enriches Chicago’s unique role in history as a crucible of architectural innovation. The setting for a succession of pivotal episodes in modern architecture and urbanism, and a context in which architects such as Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Mies van der Rohe developed revolutionary projects, Chicago operates as a nexus for the ideas and practices that are driving global architectural culture in the 21st century.

Biennial Venues

Chicago Cultural Center
The Chicago Cultural Center The main hub of the Biennial was the Chicago Cultural Center, a five-story Beaux-Arts building located in the heart of downtown Chicago. Formerly home to the city’s public library, the building now functions as a thriving public institution.

Millennium Park
Millennium Park is a prominent public park located on Michigan Avenue, directly across the street from the Chicago Cultural Center. The park is home to the Pritzker Pavilion, designed by Frank Gehry, as well as works by Anish Kapoor and Jaume Plensa.

Stony Island Arts Bank
A new exhibition venue on the South Side of Chicago, Stony Island Arts Bank offers both an international platform for contemporary art and a cultural space for the local community.

Graham Foundation
Founded in 1956, the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts makes project-based grants to individuals and organizations and produces public programs to foster the development and exchange of diverse and challenging ideas about architecture and its role in the arts, culture.

72 East Randolph
The Biennial extended to Expo 72, located across the street from the Chicago Cultural Center.

Water Tower Gallery
A Biennial exhibition featuring the work of artist Assaf Evron was presented by the City Gallery, located in the Historic Water Tower, a familiar and treasured landmark located along the city’s famed Magnificent Mile.

Illinois Institute of Technology
Biennial Installations, performances, and events took place at the Illinois Institute of Technology, one of Mies van der Rohe’s most significant architectural projects in Chicago.

Museum Campus
Chicago Horizon, the winning entry of the Biennial’s Lakefront Kiosk Competition, is located on Museum Campus, alongside major cultural institutions such as the Shedd Aquarium, Field Museum, and the Adler Planetarium.

BIG – Bjarke Ingels Group
Copenhagen, Denmark; New York, United States

BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group) is a Copenhagen- and New York-based group of architects, designers, builders, and thinkers. The office is currently involved in a large number of international projects, including West 57 in New York City and the new Google headquarters in Mountain View. Bjarke Ingels started BIG in 2005 after co-founding PLOT Architects in 2001 and working at OMA in Rotterdam. Ingels has received numerous awards and honors, including the RIBA and Holcim Awards in 2014, Danish Crown Prince’s Culture Prize in 2011 and the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale in 2004. In 2012, the American Institute of Architects granted the 8 House in Copenhagen its Honor Award, calling it “a complex and exemplary project of a new typology.”

Biennial Project: BIG – Bjarke Ingels Group. Amager Resource Center. Copenhagen, Denmark. 2017.
Biennial Project: BIG – Bjarke Ingels Group. Steam Ring Generator.
BIG. Google Campus. Mountain View, CA, United States. 2015.
BIG. 8 House. Copenhagen, Denmark. 2010. Photo: Jens Lindhe



Central Standard Office of Design
Chicago, United States

The Central Standard Office of Design philosophy hinges on a belief that the dynamic forces that shape our natural environment are central influences to the design of our built environment. Our work employs physical forces (gravity, weight, temperature, weather patterns) and urban dynamics (crowds, human interaction, context/history) to elicit experiences as strange as they are familiar. Whether this process results in the production of forms and features reminiscent of human or animal bodies (figural objects) or adopt more elusive atmospheric qualities (difficult to define yet utterly visceral in their effects), we strive to design architectural spaces that provoke human interaction and pique the curiosity of the collective mass. Central Standard Office of Design is directed by Kelly Bair.

Images: Courtesy of The Chicago Architecture Biennial
Chicago Architecture Biennial

4 West Burton Place
Chicago, IL 60610