Chicago Architecture Biennial to launch in 2015

The City of Chicago and the Graham Foundation are partnering to present the first-ever Chicago Architecture Biennial as the largest international survey of contemporary architecture in North America. The event will include robust public programming and exhibitions featuring the world’s leading architectural talent.

The inaugural Biennial will take place from October 1, 2015 through January 3, 2016 with the historic Chicago Cultural Center serving as the event hub. The Biennial will be funded through private donations, with a lead gift of $2.5 million already committed by BP as the Presenting Sponsor.

“Architecture defines a city, and no city has been defined by its architecture or has influenced global architectural design like Chicago,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “The Chicago Architecture Biennial will showcase the city’s widely respected architectural heritage, promote architecture as one of our thriving creative sectors, and deliver a rich cultural experience to our neighbourhoods.”

“In 1893, the World’s Columbian Exposition placed Chicago squarely on the global stage as a centre of innovation,” said Mayor Emanuel. “In 2015, the Chicago Architecture Biennial will continue our legacy as the world’s gathering place for exploring new ideas.”

Thousands of architecture professionals, students and cultural enthusiasts are expected to attend and experience the large-scale exhibitions at the Cultural Center and spaces around the city. These installations will feature the work of both established and emerging architects and address the major concerns of our time: the social, environmental, aesthetic, technological and economic issues that shape the world we live in.

Installations will be created in Millennium Park and other Chicago neighbourhoods to encourage all to explore the city as the canvas for a survey of architecture of the past, present and future. The Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) will be the lead agency representing the City.

“Together with the City of Chicago, we will create a significant international forum for the exploration of new ideas in architecture,” said Sarah Herda, Director of the Graham Foundation and Co-Artistic Director of the Chicago Architecture Biennial. “Chicago is the birthplace of Modernism in architecture and every architect in the world knows our city’s history of innovation in the field through the work of architects such as Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright and Mies van der Rohe. The Biennial will place Chicago, once again, at the forefront of the architectural imagination.”

Joining Herda as Co-Artistic Director will be Joseph Grima, an architect, writer and curator who previously served as editor of Domus magazine. Grima was the co-curator of the first edition of the Istanbul Design Biennial, a major international exhibition in 2012.

“For over a century, one of Chicago’s main exports has been bold innovation in architecture,” said Grima. “The Chicago Architecture Biennial is an extraordinary opportunity to learn from Chicago and radically reconsider the challenges and opportunities facing contemporary architecture on a global stage. As we design the cities of tomorrow, new platforms of research and reflection are needed, and Chicago’s history is a reminder that we shouldn’t forget to be visionary.”

Grima and Herda will consult with an International Advisory Committee, currently in formation, that includes acclaimed architects David Adjaye (London); Elizabeth Diller (New York); Jeanne Gang (Chicago); Frank Gehry (Los Angeles); Stanley Tigerman (Chicago); critic Sylvia Lavin (Los Angeles), Lord Peter Palumbo (London), Chairman of the Pritzker Prize for Architecture; and Hans Ulrich Obrist, Co-Director of Exhibitions and Programs and Director of International Projects at the Serpentine Gallery, London.

The Biennial will also work with famed artist Theaster Gates to develop installations and public programs on Chicago’s south side, and partner with an array of Chicago organizations to produce programs and collateral events, including: Zoë Ryan, Chair and John H. Bryan Curator of Architecture and Design, The Art Institute of Chicago; Wiel Arets, Dean of the Illinois Institute of Technology’s College of Architecture; Robert Somol, Director of the School of Architecture, University of Illinois at Chicago; Jonathan D. Solomon, incoming Director of the Department of Architecture, Interior Architecture, and Designed Objects, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago; Zurich Esposito, Executive Vice President, AIA Chicago; Madeleine Grynsztejn, Pritzker Director, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; and Lynn Osmond, President and CEO, Chicago Architecture Foundation. These and other local civic leaders will be engaged through the formation of a Chicago Host Committee to assist in planning.

“The Chicago Architecture Foundation is delighted that Chicago will be hosting the first architecture biennial in America,” said Osmond. “This event reflects our city’s position as the leader for architectural discourse and innovation for the future.”

BP, which sponsored the Gehry-designed bridge in Millennium Park, said they were pleased to be the lead sponsor of the project.

“BP has a long history of supporting programs, events, and institutions that make Chicago great and we’re proud to sponsor this celebration of the city’s contribution to world architecture,” said BP America Chairman and President John Mingé.

The Chicago Architecture Biennial will be coordinated by a newly formed non-profit organization that will be headed by Chicago business and civic leader Louis Susman, former Ambassador to the Court of Saint James.

“Architecture is so important to the quality of life in the cities of the 21st century,” Susman said. “As a great global and architectural city, Chicago is the ideal place for a North American biennial of architecture.”

The new group that Susman is leading, which is in formation, will support, produce and present ideas and programs that convene the world’s leading practitioners, theorists and commentators to explore, debate and demonstrate the significance of architecture and related fields to contemporary society.

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, and society.

The Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) is dedicated to enriching Chicago’s artistic vitality and cultural vibrancy. This includes fostering the development of Chicago’s non-profit arts sector, independent working artists and for-profit arts businesses; providing a framework to guide the city’s future cultural and economic growth, via the 2012 Chicago Cultural Plan; marketing the city’s cultural assets to a worldwide audience; and presenting high-quality, free and affordable cultural programs for residents and visitors.

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