A few weeks ago, during the opening of the Chicago Architecture Biennial, we eagerly awaited our opportunity to speak with Joseph Grima, the co-artistic director of the first Chicago Architecture Biennial. In an exhibition with such an open theme, we wanted to understand the driving forces behind the assembly of the participants, in addition to how the city of Chicago itself influenced decisions in the planning of this largest gathering of architecture in North America. Watch the video above and read a transcript of Grima's answers below.
What is the state of architecture today? What motivates different architects from around the world to improve the conditions of the planet's inhabitants? If you find yourself in the City of Chicago in the next few months, you will be submerged in a discussion of what architecture is, and what it can and should be in the future.
The ArchDaily team spent the end of last week at the opening of the Chicago Architecture Biennial, an anticipated celebration of architecture at a scale previously unseen in North America. Supported in large part by the city of Chicago itself, Mayor Rahm Emanuel expressed that he wanted his city "to be dead center" in a conversation about how architecture can positively impact cities around the world. In response, curators Joseph Grima and Sarah Herda reviewed the work of over 500 architects worldwide and selected over 100 architects from more than 30 countries to "demonstrate that architecture matters at any scale."
Under the title "The State of the Art of Architecture," Grima and Herda looked to the architects themselves to reveal not one theme in particular, but to highlight the built forms, strategies and speculations that emphasize the "agency of the architect." Spread over seven venues (The Chicago Cultural Center, Millennium Park, Stony Island Arts Bank, Graham Foundation, 72 E. Randolph, Water Tower Gallery and IIT), world-renowned, well-known architects exhibit projects alongside up-and-coming instigators. Some of the installations are serious, others are more light-hearted and provocative; on the whole, however, they provide an inviting global snapshot of the challenges facing architecture production today.
Last year, for the centennial of the publication of Le Corbusier's design for the Maison Dom-Ino, Space Caviar traveled the length of the Italian peninsular in pursuit of ninety-nine reinforced concrete houses. Along the way they created ninety-nine short films. Their research, a survey of Italian domesticity and its relationship to the surrounding landscape over the past century, demonstrated that "few inventions have been as transformative of Italy as the concrete frame": simultaneously a symbol of wealth "generated by a building industry that rebuilt Italy from the rubble of the Second World War" and "the primary instrument of abusivismo," or the unregulated construction on the landscape. It is, as the team describe it, "the ultimate symbol of the architect’s extraordinary power — and enduring helplessness."