Rock Print: The Remarkable Deinstallation of a Standout Exhibit at the Chicago Architecture Biennial

12:00 - 27 March, 2016

It’s a shame that the inaugural Chicago Architecture Biennial has already come and gone, and that the Windy City will have to wait until next fall for another dose of architectural euphoria. But it’s worth revisiting one of the event’s standout exhibits, an installation equally exemplary for its display as for its expiry. “Rock Print,” created by Gramazio Kohler Research of ETH Zurich and Skylar Tibbits of MIT's Self-Assembly Lab, was a four-legged, neo-primitive tower of stones and string that was erected without mortar or other reinforcement, meaning its disassembly would be the exact inverse action of its construction. The string, laid down by an algorithm, was the binder for stones laid by hand in thin stacks – the team called them “slices” – in what amounted to a type of analog version of 3D printing. The material process has been given the name “reversible concrete” and could be a paradigm shift in construction for its portability and versatility.

In the above video, the deconstruction of “Rock Print” is shown in abridged stages, where the structure’s string is dislodged and returned to a motorized spool on the gallery floor. The small stone fragments spew from the top of the structure like debris from the top of a volcano in the midst of eruption, and all that remains at the end is a small mound of concrete pebbles occupying a large circumference. A structure like “Rock Print” emphasizes that detritus can be avoided by adapting the process of building to vanguard materials that seek to match the brevity of contemporary construction with materials that curtail the waste.

Debate: On the Chicago Architecture Biennial

13:16 - 22 February, 2016
Debate: On the Chicago Architecture Biennial

AAgora is a newly-founded critical architecture debate platform at the Architectural Association in London, which aims to shed light on relevant architectural topics. These debates take the form of an open-table discussion which encourages the audience to participate at any time. AAgora's second debate will be "On the Chicago Biennial" - On Biennials, and how we define contemporary architecture.

AD Interviews: Moon Hoon / Chicago Architecture Biennial

08:00 - 16 February, 2016
AD Interviews: Moon Hoon / Chicago Architecture Biennial

Moon Hoon, an architect based in Seoul’s Gangnam district, created a series of fantastical, detailed “doodles” for the Chicago Architecture Biennial. Titled Doodle Constructivism, his installation is a powerful display of architectural illustration that merges widely contrasting ideas such as peaceful urbanism with mayhem. In his Shelfish Architecture drawing, he creates a sort of housing structure, which looks like a cross between an apartment building, a mushroom, and an alien.

AD Interviews: Lateral Office at the Chicago Architecture Biennial

08:00 - 8 February, 2016

Lateral Office’s work follows its namesake, looking horizontally at problems and solutions across various fields. Exploring the intersections of systems, environment and architecture, the Canadian firm often situates its projects in unusual climatic and topographic conditions, finding ways to consolidate multi-disciplinary problems with multi-disciplinary solutions.

Lateral Office’s exhibit at the Chicago Architecture Biennial, “Making Camp” looks at strategies of city planning and adapts them to the wilderness, forming new typologies of the traditional campsite. Like their previous project, Arctic Adaptations (special mention at the Venice Biennale), “Making Camp” explores the way architecture can respond to, and take advantage of nature, simultaneously preserving and using the natural environment.

Inaugural Chicago Architecture Biennial Closes with Over Half a Million Visitors

08:00 - 20 January, 2016
Inaugural Chicago Architecture Biennial Closes with Over Half a Million Visitors, Installation view of the Chicago Architecture Biennial. Photo by Steve Hall, © Hedrich Blessing. Image Courtesy of Chicago Architecture Biennial
Installation view of the Chicago Architecture Biennial. Photo by Steve Hall, © Hedrich Blessing. Image Courtesy of Chicago Architecture Biennial

The first ever Chicago Architecture Biennial closed January 3, with over half a million visitors having attended the event. An architecture exhibition of unprecedented size on the continent, the Biennial gathered 93 projects from 120 offices from over 30 countries to discuss the “State of the Art of Architecture.” We take a look at some of the Biennial's highlights after the break.

AD Interviews: Vo Trong Nghia / Chicago Architecture Biennial

08:00 - 19 January, 2016

Visitors to the Chicago Architecture Biennial were greeted with the appearance of a small, 30 square meter home built of thatch and steel – the S House 3. The latest prototype in experiments with affordable, sustainable housing by Vo Trong Nghia, the exhibit allowed visitors to experience the home firsthand. Designed to be built for as little as $1,000 and last over 30 years, the exhibit challenged notions of sustainability and cost, proposing an optimistic look at the future of affordable housing.

Video: The "Polis Station," Studio Gang's Ideal for a Post-Ferguson America

14:00 - 17 January, 2016

At this year’s Chicago Architecture Biennial the directors Joseph Grima and Sarah Herda asked participating architects to demonstrate the “State of the Art of Architecture" by submitting projects that they felt told a story about architecture’s importance in society. As explained in this video by Politico Magazine, native Chicagoan Jeanne Gang of Studio Gang Architects responded to this call by looking at an issue that has plagued American cities in startling ways in recent years: the troubled relationships between communities and their police forces. Often hidden behind fortress-like buildings, police stations in their current form tend to project an image closer to hostile than welcoming. But Gang believes it doesn’t have to be that way.

Giancarlo Mazzanti’s “Speaking Architecture” Exhibit at The Chicago Biennial Gives a Voice to the Visitors

08:00 - 14 January, 2016
Giancarlo Mazzanti’s “Speaking Architecture” Exhibit at The Chicago Biennial Gives a Voice to the Visitors, © El Equipo de Mazzanti
© El Equipo de Mazzanti

In response to the question posed by the curators of the Chicago Architecture Biennial – what is The State of the Art of Architecture today? -- Colombian firm El Equipo de Mazzanti (Giancarlo Mazzanti) developed their exhibition “Speaking Architecture,” which looks at architecture as “a living process rather than a finished and static object.”

The installation puts the visitor in control, breaking with the typical conception of an exhibition as something controlled, static, limited and unidirectional, and creating “a place to play.”

Learn more about the exhibition after the break. 

Lakefront Kiosk / Ultramoderne

14:00 - 6 December, 2015
Lakefront Kiosk / Ultramoderne, © Naho Kubota Photography
© Naho Kubota Photography

© Tom Harris © Tom Harris © Tom Harris © Naho Kubota Photography +33

AD Interviews: BIG's Jakob Lange / Chicago Architecture Biennial

16:00 - 27 November, 2015

One of BIG's most high-profile projects under construction, the Amager Bakke waste-to-power plant in Copenhagen, will have quite the party trick up its sleeve. In order to give locals a new understanding of the issue of global warming, for every tonne of CO2 generated by the burning of waste, the plant will emit a super-sized ring of steam into the sky from the chimney perched at the top of its sloping roof. However, when construction on the project started, BIG hit a road block: as Bjarke Ingels explained to FastCo Design, "there were no smoke ring-emitting manufacturers in the yellow pages."

AD Interviews: Francis Kéré / Chicago Architecture Biennial

16:00 - 26 November, 2015

Kéré Architecture’s “Place for Gathering” exhibition at the Chicago Architecture Biennial creates a meeting place at the entrance to the Chicago Cultural Center. Made from a locally sourced material (wood), the exhibition emits a fresh, natural smell, and creates a place for people to meet, connect and share “differing cultural narratives, traditions and aspirations," writes Kéré in the official Chicago Biennale Guidebook. 

Selected by ArchDaily Editors as one of their favorite exhibitions at the Biennial, “Place for Gathering” is based on two themes that are central to the work of Francis Kéré: “maximizing local resources and facilitating the exchange of ideas and knowledge." Listen to Kéré explain the inspiration and philosophy behind the exhibition in the video above. 

Atelier 2B's "Soft in the Middle" Rethinks Modernism for An Age of Collaboration and Sharing

09:30 - 18 November, 2015
Atelier 2B's "Soft in the Middle" Rethinks Modernism for An Age of Collaboration and Sharing, Courtesy of Atelier 2B
Courtesy of Atelier 2B

In his book We Have Never Been Modern, philosopher Bruno Latour concludes that an inability to make humanity and nature inherently separate is one of Modernism’s most misguided tropes. Thus, contemporary designers that hope to riff on or have continuity with modernism must understand that architecture, even at its most aestheticized, is not hermetically sealed off from the outside world - and that therefore modernism is not a plateau of design, but another base camp on the road to further refinement.

In Chicago, the city where Modernism reached both its metaphoric and physical peak, Atelier 2B, a team of Yewon Ji, Nicolas Lee, Ryan Otterson, recently shared the top-five prize of the Chicago Architecture Foundation's ChiDesign Competition (part of the Chicago Architecture Biennial) for their project Soft in the Middle: The Collaborative Core. Indebted to the legacy of Mies and the International Style, Atelier 2B proposed a Modernist-tower-redux that (externally at least) is composed of three stacked rectangular volumes bisected with terraces, set back from the street by a large public plaza. The project brief called for “a new center for architecture, design and education,” in a competition judged by critics including Stanley Tigerman, David Adjaye, Ned Cramer, Monica Ponce de Leon, and Billie Tsien.

Courtesy of Atelier 2B Courtesy of Atelier 2B Design and Allied Arts High School. Image Courtesy of Atelier 2B Out-of-School-Time Youth Program. Image Courtesy of Atelier 2B +8

Exploring Chicago's Architectural Legacy Through 5 Exceptional Projects

08:00 - 16 November, 2015
Exploring Chicago's Architectural Legacy Through 5 Exceptional Projects, The Chicago Skyline. © Joseph Sohm /
The Chicago Skyline. © Joseph Sohm /

Chicago has long been known for distinctive architecture, and this year’s inaugural Chicago Architecture Biennial has only furthered that reputation. Although it is nearly impossible to narrow down the countless iconic structures, in celebration of the Biennial, we have compiled five Chicago buildings that highlight the many phases of the city’s architectural history.

5 Projects at the Chicago Biennial that Demonstrate the State of the Art of Sustainability

09:30 - 13 November, 2015
5 Projects at the Chicago Biennial that Demonstrate the State of the Art of Sustainability

At the Chicago Architecture Biennial, the theme selected by directors Joseph Grima and Sarah Herda was deliberately wide in scope, with the expectation that more than one hundred exhibitors would each bring their own perspective on what is “The State of the Art of Architecture.” But where does that leave one of architecture's most widely adopted missions of the 21st century: sustainability? In this article, originally published on her blog Architectstasy as “Chicago Architecture Biennial: The State of the Art of Sustainability,” Jessica A S Letaw delves into five projects that take on sustainability in the context of Chicago's biennial.

At North America's inaugural Architecture Biennial in Chicago, “The State of the Art of Architecture,” architectural firms and practices from all six inhabited continents have been invited to display their work. Spanning all sizes and kinds of projects, the Biennial is showcasing solutions to design problems from spiderwebs to social housing.

US buildings use around 40% of all the country’s energy consumption. It is a disconcerting truth that even if every new building starting construction tomorrow were to be net-zero energy and net-zero water, we’d still be on a crash course, draining more naturally-available resources than our one planet can permanently sustain. In this environment, architectural designers have a special responsibility to educate themselves about innovative sustainable design techniques, from those that have worked for thousands of years to those that, as the Biennial’s title hopefully suggests, are state of the art.

So what does the Biennial have to say about sustainability? Five projects on display demonstrate different approaches at five different scales: materials, buildings, resources, cities, and the globe.

Otherothers' "Offset House" Reveals the Architecture Hidden in Suburban Homes

09:30 - 12 November, 2015
Otherothers' "Offset House" Reveals the Architecture Hidden in Suburban Homes, Courtesy of Otherothers
Courtesy of Otherothers

In the classic film The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy and friends manage to obtain a visit with the great and powerful wizard, who appears to them as an enormous, grotesque head, surrounded by smoke and flames, with a booming voice and a hostile demeanor. But when Toto pulls back the curtain, the wizard’s true nature is revealed, and it is only then that he is able to help the gang get the help for which they journeyed many miles down the yellow brick road. In architecture today, suburban houses share many of the characteristics of the wizard’s illusion: large, stand-offish and intimidating. But what if there is a more benevolent architecture hidden behind the smoke and flames? This is the thesis of Australian firm Otherothers' Offset House, on display now at the Chicago Architecture Biennale.

Video: Amanda Williams On Color(ed) Theory

14:25 - 10 November, 2015

In an effort to spark new ideas for "zero value landscapes," Amanda Williams has been painting abandoned houses in Chicago's South Side with a "palette of culturally coded, monochromatic colors" to "explore how academic and theoretical definitions of color map across veiled language used in American media/popular culture to describe racially charged city spaces... Think a female Gordon Matta-Clark parading around as a Black Josef Albers," says the artist. 

Watch the video above, commissioned by the Chicago Architecture Biennial and produced by Spirit of Space, to learn more.

Watch the Official Performance of “We Know How to Order” at the Chicago Architecture Biennial

08:00 - 8 November, 2015
Watch the Official Performance of “We Know How to Order” at the Chicago Architecture Biennial

The city of Chicago is an intersection of multiple systems – the organizational orders of its modernist buildings; the presence of the federal government; the negotiations and orders of the lives of its marginalized communities. “We Know How to Order”, conceived by Bryony Roberts, choreographed by Asher Waldron and performed by the South Shore Drill Team, brings these intersections to life in a vibrant street performance for the first ever Chicago Architecture Biennial. A series of drill routines with influences from street choreography, the project explicitly "super-imposes" its system of movement onto the organization of Mies van der Rohe’s Federal Center, calling "attention to the accessibility of public space in the US" and "how architectural systems alongside social expectations influence the occupation of common space," according to the Chicago Architecture Biennial guidebook.

Iwan Baan in Conversation with Jonathan Glancey

04:00 - 2 November, 2015
Iwan Baan in Conversation with Jonathan Glancey, 'The State of the Art of Architecture' (part of a photo essay for the Chicago Architecture Biennial. Image © Iwan Baan
'The State of the Art of Architecture' (part of a photo essay for the Chicago Architecture Biennial. Image © Iwan Baan

Iwan Baan was twelve years old when he received his first camera and, "within a week, [he] had traded it in for a better one." He is one of the most well-known and highly sought after architectural photographers in the world, recognised for shooting cities from above and for always highlighting people (occupation) in his images. In a short interview with Jonathan Glancey Baan is the first to state that he "doesn't know much about architecture" — something which has not inhibited his ability to produce some of the most successful photographs of the built world, and how we design, construct and occupy it.