Chicago Unveils Plans for Its Own Architecture Biennial

Today, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel will announce plans for a new international architecture exhibition in his city which hopes to rival the reach and influence of the Venice Architecture Biennale. The first Chicago Architecture Biennial is planned to be held in late 2015, and will be co-curated by Director of the Graham Foundation Sarah Herda, and Joseph Grima, former editor-in-chief of Domus Magazine and co-curator of the 2012 Istanbul Design Biennial.

They will develop the program with help from David Adjaye, Elizabeth Diller, Jeanne Gang, Frank Gehry, Stanley Tigerman, Sylvia Lavin, Hans Ulrich Obrist, and Pritzker Prize Jury Chair Peter Palumbo.

More on the plans for the Chicago Architecture Biennial after the break

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Marina City Apartments / Bertrand Goldberg. Image © Bert K

The hope is that Chicago, with its rich architectural history - from historic icons such as Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright and Mies van der Rohe to contemporary powerhouses such as Jeanne Gang and SOM - will bring with it the cultural gravitas to match the might of Venice. However, executive editor of Metropolis Magazine Martin Pedersen warned that this attitude brings a danger of complacency.

"Just by being in Chicago alone, even with its amazing cultural heritage around architecture, that in and of itself won't make it an absolutely must-go. There has to be a real commitment over not just one year, but over three or four years." Referring to what is now a packed schedule of architecture events from São Paulo to Shenzhen, he added "you're not going to snap your fingers in this crowded cultural marketplace and have it be an immediate success."

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860-880 Lake Shore Drive / Mies van der Rohe. Image © Hagen Stier

Despite the new Biennial's stated aims, there will be key differences between the events in Venice and Chicago. The Chicago Biennial will not have any national pavilions, but will have related events occurring in spaces around the city. The main focus of the event will be the Chicago Cultural Center, which will showcase models, drawings, renderings and other displays.

Another difference is the timing of the Chicago event; in order not to clash with the Venice Biennale, the Chicago Biennial will be hosted on every odd year, allowing globe-trotting architecture enthusiasts to comfortably attend both. It will also be held during the fall and winter months, preventing conflicts with other summer cultural events in Chicago and allowing the Biennial to be "a crown jewel event," according to the commissioner of the city's Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events Michelle Boone.

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Carson Pirie Scott Building / Louis Sullivan. Image © Flickr CC User Chris Smith

The announcement of the Chicago Architecture Biennial was made possible by a $2.5 million sponsorship deal secured by Mayor Emanuel from gas company BP, however city officials say that they will need at least another $1.5 million to make the show a success.

The Biennial will announce partnerships on programs and collateral events with Chicago organizations including The Art Institute of Chicago, The Illinois Institute of Technology’s College of Architecture, The School of Architecture, University of Illinois at Chicago, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, AIA Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, and Chicago Architecture Foundation.

The theme of the Biennial is yet to be announced.

Story via Chicago Tribune. Read the complete press release here.

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Cite: Rory Stott. "Chicago Unveils Plans for Its Own Architecture Biennial" 24 Jun 2014. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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