Design Roundup: Pinups, Provocateurs, Proposals

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IIT students design a structure with carbon fiber

IIT students design a structure with carbon fiber

By Philip Barash

IIT Students Take Pinup Prize
Carbon fiber, the material preferred by discerning seamen for their masts, has been reshaped by an IIT design studio into a temporary pavilion. The pavilion is fabricated by using eighty-six identical fiber carbon panels, coated with epoxy and connected by cable and clips. The structure, conceived as an experiment in materiality, recently emerged as the jury favorite at Pinup 2014 competition—a worldwide showcase of emerging design. The curious are encouraged to witness this feat for themselves: the Pavilion remains on view on IIT’s campus, where it is installed in front of Mies’s Crown Hall.

Fairey-curated Happening at Block Thirty Seven: July 31 through August 4
Graphic artist Shepard Fairey, whose paranoiac OBEY campaigns are now puzzling a second generation, brings a hybrid design, music and activism platform “The Provocateurs” to Chicago in time for Lollapalooza. Staged at Block Thirty Seven, the multiday event promises a lineup of talks, performances and exhibitions. It’s a head-scratcher: Fairey as curator, Block Thirty Seven as a venue, Lolla as agent of design. What gives? One hopeful sign here is that the languishing State Street mall may be reinventing itself as a hub for design: between the new Chicago Design Museum and a growing presence of popup fashion retailers like Bucketfeet, the Block may be on to something. If Fairey’s project contributes to that story, that’s a good thing.

Jason Derulo on Runway at Glamorama: August 8
Macy’s annual Glamorama is among the social calendar’s glitzier occasions, a welcome infusion into Chicago’s mostly unglitzy fashion world. (The name of the program is a little desperate; one can’t imagine New York’s Fashion Week calling itself, say, “Conspicuous Consumption Orgy.”) At the Harris Theater, expect a runway show and performances followed by rooftop cocktails. Even though the evening is about clothes, this year’s headliner, the hip-hop heartthrob Jason Derulo, may be best known for his bare torso. Tickets run all the way up to $1,000, but $75 will get you peripheral access. That’s alright: Glamorama’s proceeds support the good work of Ronald McDonald House Charities.

Tour with Women of Architecture: August 9
That architecture is a dude-dominated scene is a frequent lament among design professionals. But the girls are certainly catching up—and they are doing it with class. To see what women architects have been up to recently, board the Chicago Architecture Foundation bus tour themed around “Women Building Change.” Studio Gang’s boat house in Clark Park is on the route, as is UNO Galewood charter school which, from some angles, looks like a super-fun waterslide. Big bonus: the one-time tour will be guided by the architects themselves.

Foundation Seeks Pitches: Due September 15
Have an idea for a monograph about mullions? A film about fenestration? An exhibition about esthetics? A dance about architecture? Pitch it to Chicago’s venerable Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, whose grants support architecture and design related projects. The application period for individuals began on July 15, with inquiries due in September.

Chicago Looks: Exposure Giver

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Journalist and essayist Brittany Julious was about to meet her friend for an interview and a manicure session. (In full disclosure, Julious is a contributor to this magazine.)

How do you compare the music and fashion scenes in Chicago?
The music and fashion scenes in Chicago mix, but usually on the underground scale. Many of my favorite small designers and store owners DJ in their free time and interact with different independent producers. Although I am a part of both, I feel more comfortable with the music scene as people tend to be more accepting. And from a fashion standpoint, more sartorially interesting. Read the rest of this entry »

Chicago Looks: Pushing the Envelope

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Artist Benji Morino ( was on his way to the 45th Annual Chicago Pride parade and festival in Lakeview.

How would you describe your current style?
Rave girl / motorcycle daddy / club punk baby.

Is it important for you to be distinctive?
It is important to me in terms of how it’s not cute when everyone wears the same thing. I like to find pieces in the most random places I can, and incorporate them just as randomly. So my outfits never look like I pulled them straight off a mannequin. I will wear jeans and t-shirts, but I don’t think you’d ever catch me in khaki shorts and a polo with flip-flops. I see fashion as always trying to push the envelope, and I try to do that. Subtle things: dressing gender ambiguously, dyeing my hair, wearing S&M gear on a Monday afternoon… I think it’s funny when you get reactions out of people just by what clothing and accessories you wear.  Read the rest of this entry »

Design Roundup: Mumbles, Makeovers, Models and Movies

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By Brook Rosini

Winning poster for City in a Garden competition

Winning poster for City in a Garden competition

Bienn – huh?
Venice may have the romance, the gondolas and the piazzas, but we have the indefatigable Mayor Emanuel, who is determined to make Chicago an international powerhouse of architecture and design. Along with an elite team that includes cultural commish Michelle Boone, Chicago Architecture Foundation head Lynn Osmond, placemaker Theaster Gates, “genius grant” winner Jeanne Gang, and co-directors Sarah Herda and Joseph Grima, the mayor announced that Chicago will host the first architecture Biennial in 2015. The event, which will take place in venues throughout the city between October 2015 and January 2016, is meant to establish Chicago as a destination for global design aficionados. During the announcement, everyone was united in support, but no agreement was reached in how to pronounce “Biennial.” Some favored the Italianate bienn-ally. Others said “Bi-annial,” as in bylaw or bicycle. Still others mumbled.

Dare to be indifferent
Emblazoned above the entrance to the new Ed Paschke Art Center is a quote by Paschke himself about his own work: “They either love it or hate it but rarely are they indifferent to it.” The new museum, which is free to the public seven days a week, opened on June 22—what would have been the deceased Chicago artist’s seventy-fifth birthday. Located in Jefferson Park, the space is home to the largest collection of the Imagist’s colorful, fun house paintings (many of which are currently on view in the center’s inaugural exhibition), and will eventually also exhibit local contemporary artists’ work and house an artist residency program. Read the rest of this entry »

Chicago Looks: Belly Shirts

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IMG_0601Alanna Zaritz and Gábor Hizó were attending the opening of the CHGO DSGN exhibit at the Cultural Center.

What was it like for you to dress fashionably during pregnancy?
AZ: There wasn’t a noticeable size change until twenty weeks in, at which point I had to decommission jeans for leggings. Voluminous became my keyword. In a way, it simplified dressing because the wearable portion of my closet became much smaller.

Did you buy any maternity wear or did you mostly adapt what you already owned?
AZ: Since I’ve always liked loose, slouchy silhouettes, I’ve been mostly able to keep wearing the same gear in different ways. Being thrifty, the idea of purchasing a new and temporary wardrobe was just appalling. I sort of took a Donna Karan Seven Easy Pieces approach and bought black maternity leggings, a maxi dress, a turtleneck and a T-shirt. These became layering pieces over which I could still do a cool jacket or sweatshirt. I upped my flats game, weather permitting, with crazy loafers and heavy-lug punk sandals. Read the rest of this entry »

Design Roundup: Interventions, Conventions and Installations

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By Brook Rosini

These days, designers of all stripes favor approaches like sustainability, green design, local sourcing and creative placemaking. And those trends aren’t going anywhere. If anything, they’re gaining more traction, thanks to superstars like artist Theaster Gates—recently named number 11 on Fast Company’s list of 100 Most Creative People in Business for his work transforming blighted neighborhoods—and starchitect Bjarke Ingels, whose cost- and resource-sensitive firm, BIG, created a proposal that was shortlisted for the Navy Pier redesign in 2012.

Chicago’s artists, designers and creatives are all about refiguring the urban fabric in ways that galvanize, empower and create a sense of civic pride and social agency amongst the citizenry—while doing no harm. But there are always outliers. Last week, The Sun-Times reported that the city has officially released an RFP to light up Chicago’s bridges, Riverwalk and iconic buildings in support of Rahm Emanuel’s efforts to make Chicago a “world-class” destination. On the one hand, who doesn’t love a little glow on the water? On the other, tacking up a string of lights can be tacky. Is Chicago not already a city of world-class amenities? Do our iconic towers really require adornment? And what of the fact that many Chicago buildings actually turn their lights down—or even off—twice annually to spare migratory birds an unpleasant fate of death by skyscraper?

We’re no Paris on the Chicago River; we’re Chicago. And this being Chicago, opinions on the matter abound—but we’ll have to wait until later this summer to see how it all shakes out. Read the rest of this entry »

Chicago Looks: Style Aid

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Nurse (by day) Mary Eleanor Wallace was hosting “Scrap Heap II,” an art sale, at her Tusk boutique in Logan Square.

Do you usually throw parties that intersect with art?
I have also hosted an art auction as a fundraiser for my friend Sara Hunter’s residency “Summer Forum.”  I love the opportunity to transform a space and support a friend’s creative endeavors.

Tell me more about “Scrap Heap II.” I heard people came early and lined up outside to get the best scraps.
“Scrap Heap II” was organized by Sofia Leiby, a local artist and SAIC grad. I was excited about the idea since I love the concept: studio scraps of both emerging and established artists at an obtainable price. People have already been putting up pictures of their scraps (some even framed) on Instagram! Read the rest of this entry »

Report from the Interior: Navigating NeoCon

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NeoCon is a three-day bender masquerading as a furniture showcase/Photo: Seth Unger

NeoCon is a three-day bender masquerading as a furniture showcase/Photo: Seth Unger

If you had a tough time getting an Uber pickup last week, it was likely because you were in cab competition with 40,000 designers who descended on the Merchandise Mart for NeoCon 2014, the largest furniture design fair in North America. Catering to architecture and design professionals, the three-day event is a nexus of product manufacturers and vendors rolling out their newest, shiniest products and prototypes for masses to coo over, sit on, unabashedly critique, and perhaps even buy.

I went to NeoCon in hopes that I could piece together some semblance of meaning to it all—call it a pendant light at the end of the tunnel. Here are some notes from the three days of interior design madness. Read the rest of this entry »

House of Imagination: Jimenez Lai Takes on Taiwan

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By Jason Foumberg

Chicago-based architect Jimenez Lai is a UIC professor and principal of Bureau Spectacular. This summer he debuts a pavilion for Taiwan (he was born there but grew up in Toronto) at the Venice Architecture Biennale, a prestigious international competition, opening on June 7. For Venice, Lai imagined nine new habitats installed inside Venice’s Palazzo delle Prigioni, a prison palace famed for its Bridge of Sighs. Lai’s “Township of Domestic Parts” nods to “The Little Prince” and its single-use planets, as visitors can hop among these structures, called “superfurniture,” to experience the particularities of Taiwanese life and culture, as redesigned by Lai. The architect recently gave Newcity a walk-through of several of his re-imagined houses.

Screen Shot 2014-05-01 at 10.09.29 PM

House for Pleasure
The Taiwanese, like Americans, often have two distinct living rooms. Says Lai, “There’s the living room that nobody ever goes to, where you put your picture frames and your best silverware and ceramics. It’s a display of the idea of a home. Then there’s the living room that you abuse. It has the couch, the TV, you eat there. It’s often sloppy. You don’t bring guests there.” This house is shaped like a giant sofa. Read the rest of this entry »

Chicago Looks: Part of the Exhibit

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IMG_9848Fashion buyer Shaina Van Selus was attending After Dark, an event hosted by the Evening Associates of the Art Institute of Chicago.

What inspired your look? How did you compose it?
Chicago doesn’t really get enough weather where you can wear a capelet and a French Connection sweater dress so I’m always ready to take advantage of that when it happens. As far as the rest of my look, I pretty much just keep adding accessories until I’m about to fall over or one of my gay friends indicates their disapproval with a wince.
What do you think people should wear for after-hours parties at museums?
The attendees are as much a part of the exhibit as the art on display. I always appreciate when people bring their best looks out. It’s not really a cultural cosmopolitan event if everyone is dressed down. Look down. Are you in sweatpants? Go home.

Read the rest of this entry »