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.


Former Domus editor and curator of the first Istanbul Design Biennial, Joseph Grima, has set what is being called a new beginning in curatorial representation of the global state of architecture, through the 2015 Chicago Biennial which he curated together with Sarah Herda. The Biennial sought not to simply conceive another tourist-oriented event, but a substantial platform for a network of local institutions and their respective programs to showcase international contemporary architecture.

Titled “The State of the Art of Architecture,” the exhibition is a comprehensive concoction ranging from sustainability to housing, and resilience to social justice, with the intention not to overshadow or highlight any architectural ideologies, such as neo-postmodernism. This curatorial position was swiftly denounced by parametricist Patrik Schumacher, claiming that anything “I recognize as contemporary architecture was missing” from the exhibition, as highly ideological architectural styles are not just evident in today’s architectural explorations but also deeply interwoven into our daily lives; thus criticizing his lack of invitation.

At risk of being criticized for a lack of focus and selective prejudice, the biennial suggests that the contemporary is open to expression and interpretation.

If the Chicago Biennial failed to coherently articulate contemporary architecture, how do we define what is contemporary architecture and its relevant thrust? And what role do Biennials play in such definition, and the representation of global architectural trends?


  • Joseph Grima (UK) - Since 2011, Joseph Grima has been the editor of Domus and was also co-curator of the first Instanbul Design Biennial. He has curated exhibitions and presented work in numerous international venues including the Venice Architecture Biennale, New York's Museum of Contemporary Art and the Triennale di Milano. Grima now teaches at several universities including Intermediate Unit 14 at the AA. He was the artistic director of the successful Chicago Biennial of 2015, titled “The State of the Art of Architecture,” which has sparked much debate on the definition of contemporary architecture.
  • Jack Self (UK) - Jack Self, is Director of the REAL Foundation and curator of the 2016 British Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale. His writings have appeared in Architectural Design, The Guardian, New Philosopher, 032c and Dezeen. He is Contributing Editor for the Architectural Review since 2009, was previously Associate Editor at Strelka Press, and Founder of Fulcrum, the world's most read student architecture journal, based at the AA.
  • Adolfo Del Valle (PE) - Adolfo, currently a third year has been a student at the AA since first year. He is co-founder of AA architecture journal PNYX, and visited the Chicago Biennale after its opening.
  • Tobias Dausgaard (DK) - Tobias, currently a second year has been a student at the AA since first year. He visited the Chicago Biennale after its opening.
  • Maria Fedorchenko (RU) - Maria is AA Diploma 8 Unit Master, involved in Housing & Urbanism and the Visiting School Programmes at the AA. She taught at UC Berkeley, UCLA and CCA from 2003. She is a co-founder of Plakat, a collaborative platform for provocations. An educator and theorist with the focus on diagrammatic tools and infrastructures, she is also an urban consultant and a co-director of Fedorchenko Studio, having practised in Russia, Greece and the US (including Michael Graves & Associates).
  • Constandis Kizis (GR) - Constandis earned his graduate degree in Architecture and Engineering from the National Technical University of Athens in 2006 with Honors. He has been working for Kizis Architects since 2006 where he is a partner since 2010. In 2009 he earned the Foundation of State Scholarship grant for Post-Graduate and Doctorate Studies, under the auspices of which he studied in Columbia University in New York City. Currently he is a PhD candidate at the Architectural Association school of architecture in London.
  • Felicity Barbur (UK) - Currently in 5th at the Bartlett, Felicity graduated BA (Hons) Architecture at the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne with First Class Honours, receiving the prestigious Professor Douglas Wise Memorial prize and nomination for both the RIBA Hadrian Medal and RIBA President’s Bronze Medal. She has worked with a range of architects including Kengo Kuma Associates in Tokyo and OMA in Rotterdam. Felicity's current agenda has been set at looking at Chicago as an "incubator," through the curation of temporary events ranging from the everyday to expo/biennial scales, investigating where this layer of contemporary architecture lies in the future of shaping urban public realm. She visited the Chicago Biennial after its opening.


  • Francesco Catemario Di Quadri (student & co-Founder of AAgora).

Audience Guests:

  • Patrik Schumacher
  • Barbara Campbell-Lange

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Cite: "Debate: On the Chicago Architecture Biennial" 22 Feb 2016. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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