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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 / shutterstock.com
The Chicago Skyline. © Joseph Sohm / shutterstock.com

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.

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

08:00 - 8 November, 2015

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.

mcdowellespinosa’s "Layered Intelligence" Challenges the Typology of Mixed Use Buildings

13:00 - 31 October, 2015
mcdowellespinosa’s "Layered Intelligence" Challenges the Typology of Mixed Use Buildings, Exterior Rendered View. Image Courtesy of mcdowellespinosa
Exterior Rendered View. Image Courtesy of mcdowellespinosa

The Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF) has announced the three winners of its ChiDesign ideas competition to design the Chicago Centre for Architecture, Design and Education (CADE). The competition was in conjunction with the first ever Chicago Architecture Biennial, following the spirit of Robert McCormick’s international competition for the Chicago Tribune Tower in 1922 which opened discourse on the importance of design to the public. Similar to McCormick’s competition, but tackling a more modern, mixed-use typology, the Chicago CADE is envisioned as a facility to house the Chicago Architecture Foundation; the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat; a design and allied arts high school; and learning spaces for an extra-curricular youth program. Read about one of the winners, "Layered Intelligence" after the break, and see another winner, "Unveiled" here.

Interior Rendered View. Image Courtesy of mcdowellespinosa Interior Rendered View. Image Courtesy of mcdowellespinosa Interior Rendered View. Image Courtesy of mcdowellespinosa Exterior Rendered View. Image Courtesy of mcdowellespinosa +12

MAD's George Lucas Museum Wins Approval in Chicago

14:00 - 29 October, 2015
MAD's George Lucas Museum Wins Approval in Chicago, Updated design for the Lucas Museum in Chicago. Image © Lucas Museum of Narrative Art / MAD
Updated design for the Lucas Museum in Chicago. Image © Lucas Museum of Narrative Art / MAD

The Chicago City Council has voted to approve zoning for George Lucas' controversial, MAD-designed Lucas Museum of Narrative Art. Planned for a lakefront site on Chicago's Museum Campus park, near the Shedd Aquarium and Field Museum, the "mountainous" design faced opposition from environmentalists who claim the building is a "confiscation of public land." Despite this, and according to reports on NBC News, the Star Wars director won the Council's approval by promising more parking and tailgating space to Chicago Bears fans.

“The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art will be an incredible addition to Chicago’s Museum Campus,” said Mayor Emanuel in an official statement. “The Lucas Museum will join the 56 other museums in Chicago to provide new cultural and educational benefits for generations to come. And the new parkland will add more open greenspace that will be enjoyed by residents across the city.”   

S House 3 / Vo Trong Nghia Architects

20:00 - 27 October, 2015
S House 3 / Vo Trong Nghia Architects, Tom Harris, Copyright Hedrich Blessing. Image Courtesy of Chicago Architecture Biennial
Tom Harris, Copyright Hedrich Blessing. Image Courtesy of Chicago Architecture Biennial

Steve Hall, Copyright Hedrich Blessing. Image Courtesy of Chicago Architecture Biennial Steve Hall, Copyright Hedrich Blessing. Image Courtesy of Chicago Architecture Biennial Steve Hall, Copyright Hedrich Blessing. Image Courtesy of Chicago Architecture Biennial Steve Hall, Copyright Hedrich Blessing. Image Courtesy of Chicago Architecture Biennial +12

Lycée Français de Chicago / STL Architects

13:00 - 26 October, 2015
Lycée Français de Chicago / STL Architects, © Ignacio Espigares/STL Architects
© Ignacio Espigares/STL Architects

© Ignacio Espigares/STL Architects © Ignacio Espigares/STL Architects © Ignacio Espigares/STL Architects © Ignacio Espigares/STL Architects +24

Summer Vault / Independent Architecture + Paul Preissner Architects

11:00 - 21 October, 2015

Subversive Methods Make A Skyscraper in Michael Ryan Charters and Ranjit John Korah's "Unveiled"

09:30 - 17 October, 2015
Night View. Image Courtesy of Michael Ryan Charters and Ranjit John Korah
Night View. Image Courtesy of Michael Ryan Charters and Ranjit John Korah

In a Los Angeles Times article last December, “The future is in the past: Architecture trends in 2014,” acting critic Christopher Hawthorne sought to make sense of a year that included Koolhaas’s Venice Biennale, Smiljan Radic’s Serpentine Pavilion, and periodicals like Log 31: New Ancients and San Rocco 8: What’s Wrong with the Primitive Hut? Through these examples and others, Hawthorne concluded that it was a year of overdue self-reflection, where in order to determine architecture’s future it was necessary to mine the past.

Building on these precedents, Hawthorne predicted that after years of baroque parametricism, in 2015 architects would use last year’s meditations on history as a practical foundation for new projects and proposals. An example of this can be found in the work of Michael Ryan Charters and Ranjit John Korah, a duo who recently shared the top-five prize for the CAF led ChiDesign Competition (part of the Chicago Architecture Biennial) for their project Unveiled. In a brief that called for “a new center for architecture, design and education,” and with lauded jurors including Stanley Tigerman, David Adjaye, Ned Cramer, Monica Ponce de Leon, and Billie Tsien, Charters and Korah proposed what could casually be summarized as a terracotta framework over a multi-story crystalline form of wooden vaults, but is actually something much more complex.

Lower Half of Vault "Aggregate". Image Courtesy of Michael Ryan Charters and Ranjit John Korah Maglev Elevator Bisecting the Vaults. Image Courtesy of Michael Ryan Charters and Ranjit John Korah Day View. Image Courtesy of Michael Ryan Charters and Ranjit John Korah Chicago City Model with Skyline Visible in the Surroundings. Image Courtesy of Michael Ryan Charters and Ranjit John Korah +8

The Power of Photography: How Images Continue to Shape the Built Environment

09:30 - 12 October, 2015
The Power of Photography: How Images Continue to Shape the Built Environment, © Iwan Baan for New York Magazine
© Iwan Baan for New York Magazine

In a culture dominated by smartphones and Instagram, with estimates that over one trillion photographs will be taken this year alone, it might seem impossible for photographs to make and shape issues in the ways they once did. Despite this, images still steer debates with shocking resiliency and, with luck, become iconic in their own right. As architecture is synonymous with placemaking and cultural memory, it is only logical that images of the built environment can have lasting effects on the issues of architecture and urbanism. It's never been easier for photographs to gain exposure than they can today, and with social media and civilian journalism, debates have never started more quickly.

Critics Take On "The State of the Art of Architecture" in Chicago

09:30 - 9 October, 2015
An image from Iwan Baan's Chicago photo essay. Image © Iwan Baan
An image from Iwan Baan's Chicago photo essay. Image © Iwan Baan

Last week, the Chicago Architecture Biennial opened to over 31,000 visitors and much fanfare, and for good reason - it is the largest architecture event on the continent since the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, featuring over one hundred exhibitors from over thirty countries. With a theme as ambiguous as "The State of the Art of Architecture," and with the hope of making the biennial, according to directors Joseph Grima and Sarah Herda, "a space for debate, dialog and the production of new ideas," the event was sure to generate equally wide-ranging opinions. Read on to find out what the critics had to say about the Biennial.

Back of the Yards High School / STL Architects

17:00 - 8 October, 2015
Back of the Yards High School / STL Architects, © Ignacio Espigares/STL Architects
© Ignacio Espigares/STL Architects

© Ignacio Espigares/STL Architects © Ignacio Espigares/STL Architects © Ignacio Espigares/STL Architects © Ignacio Espigares/STL Architects +19

Diller Scofidio + Renfro to Design First Building in Chicago

12:00 - 8 October, 2015
Diller Scofidio + Renfro to Design First Building in Chicago, Midway Plaisance. Image © The University of Chicago; Photo by Tom Rossiter
Midway Plaisance. Image © The University of Chicago; Photo by Tom Rossiter

The University of Chicago has selected Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R) to design their David M. Rubenstein Forum, a new facility to host conferences, workshops, lectures, ceremonies and other gatherings. Planned for the University’s Campus South, on the southeast corner of Woodlawn Avenue and 60th Street, the Forum will provide a mix of informal and formal meeting spaces that encourage an "open exchange of ideas."

“As our first building in Chicago, the Rubenstein Forum presents a unique challenge: to imagine a contemporary place of discourse for all of the university’s constituent departments and institutes as well as invited scholars and dignitaries from around the world,” said DS+R founding partner Elizabeth Diller.

AIA Announces Look Up Film Challenge Winners at Chicago Biennial

15:08 - 3 October, 2015
AIA Announces Look Up Film Challenge Winners at Chicago Biennial , Courtesy of Andrew Jeric and Soha Momeni
Courtesy of Andrew Jeric and Soha Momeni

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has announced the winners of the Look Up Film Challenge at the inaugural Chicago Architecture Biennial.

Out of 26 entries for the competition launched earlier this year, a jury of architects and media professionals selected three top prize winners and recognized seven additional films in themed categories. The winning pieces best represent the competition’s call for films that highlight the impact that architects have on communities.

The winners of the Look Up Film Challenge are:

Rafael Viñoly Proposes Twin Residential Towers for Chicago's South Loop

14:15 - 29 September, 2015
© Rafael Viñoly Architects
© Rafael Viñoly Architects

Rafael Viñoly Architects has presented plans for a two-tower residential project in Chicago's South Loop neighborhood. The phased Crescent Heights development hopes to be home to Chicago's 6th tallest building, rising 829-feet on the south end of Grant Park. If approved, the project would be completed in three phases; the first realizing a 76-story, 792-unit apartment building on the eastern portion of the site. 

Chicago Tribune Says 11 "High Caliber" Architects Asked to Submit Qualifications for Obama Library

14:15 - 23 September, 2015
The University of Chicago's two proposed sites. Image © OPLSouthSide.org
The University of Chicago's two proposed sites. Image © OPLSouthSide.org

Update: The Chicago Tribune's architecture critic Blair Kamin has now reported that 140 architects from 60 cities have expressed their interest in designing the Barack Obama Presidential Center in Chicago by submitting qualifications. Of these, 99 are based in the United States, although names have not been released. The below article, originally published on September 1st, lists 11 architects that Kamin was able to confirm had been invited to submit qualifications by the Barack Obama Foundation.

Last week, it was reported that the Barack Obama Foundation was searching globally for an architect to design Obama's Presidential Library and Museum (officially known as the Barack Obama Presidential Center). With the list of invited candidates for Obama's Presidential Center still a closely-guarded secret, though, the Chicago Tribune's architecture critic Blair Kamin has turned investigator, uncovering a list of 11 firms among the "fifty or more" which are believed to have been invited. Kamin states that the 11 firms he has confirmed to be in the running are "A) Of high caliber; B) Represent a broad geographic and aesthetic spectrum; and C) Include the established firms one would expect to be invited."

Alternative Realities: 7 Radical Buildings That Could-Have-Been

09:30 - 21 September, 2015
Alternative Realities: 7 Radical Buildings That Could-Have-Been, Masterplan for the World Trade Center by Richard Meier & Partners, Eisenman Architects, Gwathmey Siegel and Associates, and Steven Holl Architects. Image © Jock Pottle. Courtesy Richard Meier & Partners Architects
Masterplan for the World Trade Center by Richard Meier & Partners, Eisenman Architects, Gwathmey Siegel and Associates, and Steven Holl Architects. Image © Jock Pottle. Courtesy Richard Meier & Partners Architects

In It’s A Wonderful Life the film’s protagonist George Bailey, facing a crisis of faith, is visited by his guardian angel, and shown an alternate reality where he doesn’t exist. The experience gives meaning to George’s life, showing him his own importance to others. With the increasing scale of design competitions these days, architectural “could-have-beens” are piling up in record numbers, and just as George Bailey's sense of self was restored by seeing his alternate reality, hypothesizing about alternative outcomes in architecture is a chance to reflect on our current architectural moment.

Today marks the one-year-anniversary of the opening of Phase 3 of the High Line. While New Yorkers and urbanists the world over have lauded the success of this industrial-utility-turned-urban-oasis, the park and the slew of other urban improvements it has inspired almost happened very differently. Although we have come to know and love the High Line of Diller Scofidio + Renfro and James Corner Field Operations, in the original ideas competition four finalists were chosen and the alternatives show stark contrasts in how things might have shaped up.

On this key date for one of the most crucial designs of this generation, we decided to look back at some of the most important competitions of the last century to see how things might have been different.

Joseph Marzella's second-place design for the Sydney Opera House. Image via The Daily Mail Designs for the Chicago Tribune Tower by Adolf Loos (left) and Bruno Taut, Walter Gunther, and Kurz Schutz (right). Image via skyscraper.org Design for the High Line by Zaha Hadid Architects with Balmori Associates, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP and studio MDA. Image via University of Adelaide on Cargo Collective Moshe Safdie's design for the Centre Pompidou. Image Courtesy of Safdie Architects +16

New Horizon_architecture From Ireland

07:00 - 18 September, 2015
New Horizon_architecture From Ireland, Credito Irish Design 2015
Credito Irish Design 2015

New Horizon_architecture from Ireland, a series of presentations of the work of emerging Irish practices in three high-profile venues around the world, opens at Chicago Design Museum on October 3rd and runs until January 3rd, 2016 as part of the inaugural Chicago Architecture Biennial.

Presented by Irish Design 2015 (ID2015) in partnership with Chicago Design Museum, this flagship exhibition of Irish architecture and the built environment is a key element of ID2015, a year-long initiative backed by the Irish government exploring, promoting and celebrating Irish design throughout Ireland and internationally.