The message is loud and clear: the third edition of the Chicago Architecture Biennial has more than one story to tell. Moving away from the themes of the past two biennials, which discussed “The State of Art and Architecture,” and urged industry practitioners to “Make New History,” this year’s architecture extravaganza puts a strong emphasis on the other. “…and other such stories” is about more than architecture and design. It’s about creating a future for the field that is based on diversity, equality and inclusivity by bringing together architecture, design, urbanism, policymaking, activism, research and the arts. It’s about changing our perspective.
Under the artistic direction of Yesomi Umolu, the vast undertaking takes the spotlight. At a time when diversity and gender equality are a continuous struggle in the architecture field and beyond, having a woman of color at the top of North America’s largest architecture and design exhibition makes a powerful impact. Even more so when she’s not afraid to spark conversations about the cultural, environmental and sociopolitical issues that make up Chicago’s landscape. Taking up the city’s history, physical geography and architectural heritage, Umolu and the Biennial team take a step further by bringing those new stories into the mix—stories that will lead to a different future.
Fostering dialogue between Chicago and the rest of the world, the Biennial invites architects, designers, artists, theorists, cultural producers and industry practitioners from around the globe to become part of our community and bring change into the field. From São Paulo to Johannesburg to Vancouver to Berlin, this year’s Biennial is widely multicultural, featuring more than eighty practitioners from over twenty countries, and showcasing unexpected collaborations with members of the local scene—Johannesburg’s Keleketla! Library teams with Chicago-based Stockyard Institute to expand upon the importance of heritage sites; public housing at the National Public Housing Museum (the former Jane Addams Homes); University of London-based Forensic Architecture collaborates with Chicago’s Invisible Institute; and Berlin-based photographer Akinbode Akinbiyi expands his practice through a School of the Art Institute of Chicago residency at Homan Square in North Lawndale. Extra emphasis is also being put on education, with a focus on Chicago youth. Partnering with Chicago Public School high schools, the Biennial will bring architecture and design curricula into the classroom and provide opportunities for students to visit the exhibitions but also to produce creative projects of their own by offering workshops and studio sessions.
The four-month-long architecture festival kicks off September 19 at the Chicago Cultural Center and features exhibitions, events and programming across the city through January of 2020 and the city of Chicago is invited. Explore, discuss, interact. No matter how you experience this overpowering showcase of architecture and design, one thing is for certain: if you look hard enough you’ll find yourself relating to one of those stories. Which means that the Biennial will be fulfilling its mission. (Vasia Rigou)
Greek-born Vasia Rigou is a Chicago-based art critic and pop culture journalist, largely on the subjects of contemporary art, design, and fashion. She moved to Chicago in 2013 to study Arts Journalism at the School of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC,) where she was awarded the New Artist Society Merit Scholarship. She grew up to appreciate art after years of carefully planned, culture-filled travel itineraries and museum-hopping around Europe with her family. During this time, she received a bachelor’s in English Literature, in her native Athens; a master’s in Media, in Nottingham, UK; and studied foreign languages—English, German, and Spanish at the University of Salamanca, Spain. Her writing—reviewing museum exhibitions, gallery shows, art fairs, fashion shows, and music festivals among others—has been published nationally and internationally both in print and online. In 2017, she founded and now serves as editor-in-chief of Rainbowed.—an independently published website focused on the visual and performing arts, digital media, and popular culture. When she’s not writing about art or looking at art—wine in hand, she keeps up with Chicago’s creative entrepreneurial and startup community, makes lists for pretty much everything, drinks immense amounts of coffee and takes cross-country road trips every chance she gets.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.rigouvasia.com