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.
From Starter to Main: Chicago Design Museum
Chicago Design Museum has a mission, and it’s to show you that Block 37 isn’t just a Mickey Mouse venture. Just kidding, it’s “Unite. Inform. Inspire.” But the museum’s new home is, in fact, located in Block 37, perched high above the Disney store on the third floor. CDM’s homecoming as a permanent institution kicks off with their first exhibition, starts/speculations. The exhibition presents a nod to our city’s venerable graphic design history, plus offers a peek into how design and comm tools could evolve and influence our interactions in the future.
Biennale Memories: Jimenez Lai and Stanley Tigerman talk at CAF, June 19
Missed the opening of the Venice Architecture Biennale? Don’t fret. Head to the Chicago Architecture Foundation, where you can experience the Biennale via the recollections of Chicago-based architect Jimenez Lai in conversation with his longtime mentor, the legendary luminary Stanley Tigerman. In 2013, Tigerman won the AIA Chicago Lifetime Achievement Award while Lai, founder of Bureau Spectacular and an assistant professor at the University of Illinois Chicago, received the Debut Award at the Lisbon Triennale for outstanding architects under the age of 35. An exhibition of Lai’s recent monograph, “Citizens of No Place,” is currently on view at the offices of Clayco and Forum Studio. Register online; tickets are $12 general admission, $7 for CAF members. We hope Lai has some fantastic anecdotes featuring Biennale curator, Rem Koolhaas.
Tugging at Heart Strings: Marwen Fundraiser, June 20
If you’re a fan of design, you should probably think about supporting the artists of the future, since they’re the ones who’ll be designing the nursing home you end up in, and your future robot caretakers. For your design-related do-gooding this week, consider attending Prime 8 Art League’s matter-of-factly-named third annual charity art & music event. With a sweet venue at Chop Shop (also providing the nosh), fly tunes by DJ RTST and Penguin Prison, and a raffle to die for, this event will do right by you while you do the right thing. Event and raffle proceeds will be donated to Marwen, a youth arts organization.
The Loop is Alive and Then Some: CLA Placemaking, June 20 and 27
Sinatra had it right. State Street is great, and there’s more to it than shopping. Living Loop by Chicago Loop Alliance activates the great street’s south end with performing arts events of all stripes in Pritzker Park this month and throughout the Loop this summer. On June 20, anyone feeling ravenous for a fun excursion can participate in Adventure Sandwich, an interactive, live-action cartoon designed to turn on kids’ minds without turning off adults. The performance consists of live music, action and a whole lot of cardboard. For headier fare, check out Honey Pot Performance on June 27. Honey Pot, a woman-focused group, may show off its current project, “Juke Cry Hand Clap,” which uses house music as a touchstone to explore social practices developed in Black Chicago during the twentieth century.
In Military Terms: Guerrilla Urbanism at Version Festival, June 21-29
Tactics and ambushes aren’t just for warfare anymore. They’re also for art. For its thirteenth iteration, Version Festival 14 brings together creative workers, gardeners, urbanists, artists and activists to examine how art and cultural interventions change the fabric of the urban environment and the composition of its social character. Co-produced by Public Media Institute, which calls Co-Prosperity Sphere its home, most Version Fest events are free, while a few range from $5 to $20. Taking place at main sponsor Mana Contemporary, as well as Co-Pro, Maria’s Packaged Goods and Community Bar and other sites in and near Bridgeport and around the city, events include a pop-up mini market, a summit featuring a number of Chicago’s placemaking thought leaders; an electronic music showcase; an artist potluck BBQ; artist-led tours featuring Bridgeport Streetscaping Society, Rebuild Foundation, the Bloomingdale Trail and Chicago’s underground pedway; and a retrospective exhibition of projects by ArchiGo—the 1960s avant garde architectural group based at the Illinois Institute of Technology that was neo-futuristic, anti-heroic and pro-consumerist.
Convening with Purpose: AIA Convention, June 26-28
The theme for this year’s AIA Convention is Design with Purpose. To give attendees’ weekend a sense of purpose, convention organizers have put together a jam-packed schedule of nearly 200 seminars and hands-on workshops, eighty educational tours, and several impressive keynotes. Topics range from new materials coming to the marketplace to trends and leadership in the architectural arts: green building, sustainable materials, business planning for startup firms, and more. The keynotes focus around purpose, praxis, and planning, exploring projects by A-listers for whom the concepts of innovation, disruption, sustainability, and entrepreneurialism are more than just words—they’re ways of building. Keynote speakers include architect and “genius grant” winner Jeanne Gang, artist and urban planner Theaster Gates, beloved and be-hated architect of Chicago’s body politic Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and shoe czar Tony Hsieh, founder of Zappos—and many more game-changing architects and designers.