CHICAGO ARCHITECTURE BIENNIAL: Make New History – until January 7 2018

The governing body of this year’s Chicago Architectural Biennial describe what can be expected in the following quotes:

“The second edition of the Chicago Architecture Biennial is the largest architecture and design exhibition in North America, showcasing the transformative global impact of creativity and innovation in these fields.”

“…creating an international forum on architecture and urbanism through the production of exhibitions and public programs.”

“The Artistic Directors have drawn out a series of topics that structure the shared interests and practices between the architects and artists on show at the Chicago Cultural Center. These topics are ImageMaterialBuilding and Civic Histories highlighting different modes of architectural production; from the book to the city. Whether they take the form of drawings, installations, environments, or performances, biennial projects reflect the ongoing significance of the past, and the myriad ways that history is invoked in the production of new forms of architectural thought.”

Sam Jacob Studio London UK

All Photos © Andy Stagg

Sam Jacob is a collaborative architecture and design practice that makes buildings, places, objects and strategies.

Sam Jacob Studio for architecture and design was established in 2014 and has quickly gained a reputation as a progressive design practice creating idiosyncratic and striking projects underwritten with intelligent thinking.

SJS makes projects that spans scales from objects to architectural, urban and cultural projects. Our work is driven by research developing new relationships between contemporary approaches, history and wider culture.”

A Very Small Part of Architecture: It takes its title from Loos’ essay Architecture (1910) in which he argues that “only a very small part of architecture belongs to the realm of art: The tomb and the monument”.

Built within Highgate Cemetery, amongst the many monuments and memorials to the dead, A Very Small Part Of Architecture makes a different kind of memorial. Not one dedicated to a person, an event or a moment in time, not designed to remember the past but instead to imagine other possibilities, altered presents and alternative futures

“A Very Small Part of Architecture resurrects Austrian Modernist architect Adolf Loos’s 1921 design for a mausoleum for art historian Max Dvorák. Though never built, the image of Loos’ design has haunted architectural culture ever since. Here the heavy dark and masonic form is recreated at 1:1 scale using a lightweight timber frame and scaffold net: A ghostly reenactment of an unrealised architectural idea.”

Stack:  Designed with Mini Living for London Design Festival 2017

London is a city of books before it is a city of architecture. Alongside outcrops of that thing we call architecture other forms of cultural expression have been the site of our real cultural imagination. Perhaps most of all it is through writing and reading that we have created the space to explore our inner psyche and express our collectivity

Within the shelves of the Stack are books that describe ways of living in London. Both real and imagined, documentary and fictional. In these pages we find multiple descriptions of how one might live a London life. From the post-revolutionary fiction of William Morris’ News From Nowhere, the forensic detection of Sherlock Holmes through the oppressive gloom of Hangover Square, the angular modernity of JG Ballard all frame views of the city. They record and speculate on ways we might live. Within them we can read our way through different visions of London.

As a design, the library is imagined as a stack of materials. Like library ‘stacks’ except here the structure of the library itself is created by stacking materials. So the structure is the form and the form is the structure – an architecture that itself is made as if it were a stack of books, of one thing piled on top of another.

Like books, architecture itself is made up of stories and narratives. We can read architecture as much as we can read a book. And equally we can write architecture into the world too through the ways it tells stories.

This library can be read as a kind of archaeology, as layers the starts with heavier, more geological materials, that gradually become lighter and more processed.”

Pasticcio:  “Pasticcio is a proposal for a tower commissioned by the Chicago Architecture Biennial. The tower is composed of varied architectural references fused into a new whole: A new kind of tower made out of fragments of history.

First, Adolf Loos’ unbuilt proposal for the 1922 Chicago Tribune Tower competition. His cyclopean Doric column-as-building is an object out of place and scale as if a piece had become a whole, as if an object had become a building.

Second, the actual Tribune Tower on Michigan Avenue designed by John Howells and Raymond Hood. Or specifically the fragments of other buildings, architectural relics of historic, significant or curious significance – embedded in it.

The Chicago Pasticcio suggests the architectural possibilities of appropriation, assembly and remaking. That architecture is not something that we create our of thin air but something that already exists, just waiting for us to discover it.”

Cameron Wu Cambridge MA USA:

Epker House: “Mediating between the vernacular shapes and a more contemporary material aesthetic, the Epker house exhibits a calibrated deployment of cone geodesics to produce a smooth and continuous wrapping with conventional clapboard siding around its figurative corners. Unlike the pixilated cladding of the shingle style, the conventional siding rectangles require specific profile angles and radii of curvature of the cone to which they are applied. This precise calibration allows critical alignments to be achieved–levelness, roof slopes and stair slopes.

Wrap Music: Projective Orthogonality: The qualities of rhythm, texture, proportion, dynamics, and articulation may further relate to the linguistic and expressionistic characteristics of architecture and music, thus allowing for a more complex and nuanced understanding of each medium. Though these metaphorical and literal comparisons are well-known and perhaps cliché, their fundamental applicability still endure today. Their basic attributes of periodicity, repetition, scalar relationships, local and global conditions, linear and non-linear narratives still prevail as primary topics of investigation for musical and architectural composition.
In lieu of tonal differentiation, Wrap Music deploys a continuous architectural surface which choreographs an immersive subjective experience as the metaphorical embodiment of the act of musical listening.”

Geodesic House 2: Constructed Dynamism:  In Geodesic House 02, specific geometric properties of smooth and piecewise continuous developable surfaces bind together the articulation of architectural space, the tectonic unit of construction, and the circulatory path of the subject. A technique developed called “geodesic leveling” allows smooth transitions between sloped circulation paths and level floors to be achieved with standard planks of siding. The speculative intent is to use geometric knowledge of developable surfaces to inform generative techniques producing architectural idioms which have intelligent and economical relationships to fabrication and construction.

Archi-Union Shanghai China

“Archi-Union Architects was founded by Philip F. Yuan in 2003. Their practice is focused on the integration of Chinese traditional culture and digital technology including computational design, robotic fabrication, and architectural industrialization.”

Chi She: Chi She is an artistic group founded by ZHANG Peili, GENG Jiangyi, whose exhibition space…in West Bund Art Exhibition Area…chasing the spatial appeal, harmonizing with integral environment, as well as realizing formal representation corresponding with the artistic mission embedded inside. It is hoped that the building can provide a delicate and abundant compound art space, where contains various artistic events, such as curiosities exhibition, creative workshop and unpremeditated communication.”

“On the other hand, the grey green bricks coordinated with this ancient building have been applied on the exterior part located on the main interface towards the park. When the wall in the entrance is curled up a lit bit, this generated wrinkle wall texture becomes the impressive part of the form manipulation, which represents the architectural expressions as well, that is, a status that embodies current cultural trends based on tradition.”  Text description provided by the architects @

Songjiang Art Campus: The project is located at Xinqiao Town, Songjiang District, a suburb of Shanghai. How to address the local culture and context and create new urban space became the main concern of this project. Songjiang, as the cradle Shanghai’s history and culture, has been overdeveloped during recent years. This rapid and chaotic development raises the problem of cultural vacuum. Many public spaces are seldom used and the green parks are lack of social activities.”

“We try to reorganize the space through integrating the systems of pedestrian and green lands. A compact street layout realized close relationship with neighborhood. Meanwhile, green areas weave into the base of the site and build up a corresponding relationship with the existing river,resulting in an integrated space of water, green and architecture.”  Text description provided by the architects. 


Fala Atelier Oporto Portugal

Fala is a naïve architecture practice based in Oporto, led by Filipe Magalhães, Ana Luisa Soares, and Ahmed Belkhodja. Established in 2013, the atelier works with methodic optimism on a wide range of projects, from territories to birdhouses. Fala’s projects are a medley of formal languages, references, quotations and themes, only regulated by an obsession for clarity; its architecture is both hedonic and post-modern, intuitive and rhetorical.

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