Chicagoisms exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago

The Ferris wheel at the Columbian Exposition of 1893. The reversal of the Chicago River. The construction of the Circle Interchange. With the city of Chicago widely recognized for its far-reaching, influential, and often radical contributions to the development of the modern city, the Department of Architecture and Design at the Art Institute of Chicago is opening an exhibition entitled Chicagoisms. It will run from April 5, 2014 through January 4, 2015 in the Kurokawa Gallery (G286) in the museum’s Modern Wing.

As part of a series in which the department of Architecture and Design enlists contemporary architects and designers to organize installations that investigate critical issues within their practices, Chicagoisms explores the rich architectural and urban history of Chicago by identifying five fundamental principles that powered the city’s distinctive evolution.

Architectural theorist Alexander Eisenschmidt and art historian Jonathan Mekinda have extrapolated key ideas for the exhibition from their recent publication, Chicagoisms: The City As Catalyst for Architectural Speculation. Along with designer Matt Wizinsky, the team enlisted nine contemporary architects to undertake their own investigations and interpretations of five “Chicagoisms”: Vision Shapes History, Optimism Trumps Planning, Ambition Overcomes Nature, Technology Makes Spectacle, and Crisis Provokes Innovation.

 The nine contemporary architects – Bureau Spectacular, DOGMA, MVDRV, Organization for Permanent Modernity, PORT, Sam Jacob, UrbanLab, Weathers, and WW – have created architectural models with corresponding manifestos specifically for this exhibition that are emblematic of the five Chicagoisms. These models and manifestos enliven urban principles rooted in Chicago with a contemporary voice and a global perspective. Each exploration is juxtaposed with historical black-and-white photographs mined from the Chicago History Museum.

For exhibition organizers Eisenschmidt and Mekinda, Chicago bears little of the restlessness and ambition to imagine new urban conditions that made it one of the earliest and most vital examples of the modern metropolis. They have developed this exhibition with the aim to revive Chicago’s constructive potential and spark a renewed boldness to engage the city today.

The Architecture & Design Society and the Graham Foundation will co-sponsor a panel discussion and book launch at the Graham Foundation at 2:00pm on April 5, 2014 called “Chicagoisms: The City as Catalyst for Architectural Speculation.” For more information, please visit

An exhibition tour by Eisenschmidt, Mekinda, and Wizinsky will take place in the Kurokawa Gallery at the Art Institute on April 24, 2014 at 6:00pm.

Chicagoisms is curated as part of the department of Architecture and Design’s project series by Karen Kice, Neville Bryan Assistant Curator, Department of Architecture and Design at the Art Institute of Chicago.

For more information, please visit