Treatise: Why Write Alone? at the Graham Foundation in Chicago

The Graham Foundation presents this exhibition and publication project that brings together 14 young design offices to consider the architectural treatise as a site for theoretical inquiry, experimentation and debate. Organized by Chicago and Los Angeles-based designer Jimenez Lai, founder of Bureau Spectacular, the project grows out of a recent Graham Foundation grant to Lai, whose interest in discursive practices and non-conformist approaches to architecture led him to ask his peers working in the realm of conceptual architecture: Why write? And, why write alone? In response to these questions, Treatise presents an exhibition of works by this core group of designers as well as an individual treatise from each office. Together, the exhibition and publications provide a platform for the participants to articulate and exchange their theoretical angles and ideas and reflect on their positions in relation to the contemporary conditions of architecture.

Rather than a compilation or ongoing series, this set of single-authored treatises takes cues from the publication series Pamphlet Architecture as it originated in the 1970s under the direction of Steven Holl and William Stout. Initially small in scale and low in cost, this pivotal project had a significant impact on the discipline, offering a generation of young architects the freedom and autonomy to issue their own statements and challenge the prevailing discourse. However, in contrast to Pamphlet Architecture, which unfolded over many years, this project will publish all 14 treatises at once in order to investigate the collective and individual stakes that emerge from assembling this temporary alliance.

Running from January 23 to March 28, 2015, the Treatise exhibition presents new and recent works, ranging from drawings and models to multi-media installations, by fourteen architectural and design offices from across the US and Europe. Participants include: Bittertang (New York); Bureau Spectacular (Chicago); CAMES/gibson (Chicago); Design With Company (Chicago); FAKE Industries (New York); First Office (Los Angeles); Pieterjan Ginckels (Brussels, Belgium); is-office (Chicago); Andrew Kovacs (Los Angeles); Alex Maymind (Los Angeles); Norman Kelley (Chicago and New York); Point Supreme (Athens, Greece); SOFTlab (New York); and Young & Ayata (New York).

The participants harness diverse, and often unexpected, intellectual and creative strategies, materials and forms to envision and communicate their ideas. For example, the Belgium artist and designer Pieterjan Ginckels appropriates the language of digital modelling to orchestrate movement through a sparse landscape of architectural extras that is projected to room-size proportions. Similarly interested in the fantastic and the quotidian, Chicago-based Design With Company presents work from their latest Graham-funded project, which reimagines Midwestern building types to establish a contemporary theory of architectural character. Meanwhile, Los Angeles-based designer Andrew Kovacs’s installation draws from his archive of architectural “B-sides,” composed of overlooked and discarded images and artifacts, to propose a new organizational logic that reimagines the ways in which we inhabit space. All together, Treatise presents over 200 works by 14 design offices that address a range of concerns within the discipline, including architecture’s representational limits and possibilities.

For more information, please visit