Chicago Architecture Biennial Unveils Theme

John Hill
6. February 2019
Chicago Architecture Biennial logo, as designed by ELLA (Image: Chicago Architecture Biennial)

The curators of the 2019 Chicago Architecture Biennial — its third iteration — have release details on its theme: ...and other such stories.

and other such stories follows 2017's Make New History, under Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee, and the inaugural theme, The State of the Art of Architecture, under Joseph Grima and Sarah Herda in 2015. For this year's Chicago Architecture Biennial, artistic director Yesomi Umolu and her co-curators, Paulo Tavares and Sepake Angiama, are honing in on the host city, which wasn't a particularly strong ingredient in the previous editions.

With an urbanism "inextricalbe from the flows of people, goods, and capital" and "acute forms of spatial segregation that have been forged through uneven planning and housing policies," Chicago is, they say, "an ideal site for investigation of the ways the built space reflects and impacts our understanding of the common, the collective, and the constitutional."

Developed through a research-led approach that found Umolo and her co-curators carry out public talks, workshops, tours, and informal conversations in Chicago as well as São Paulo, Johannesburg, and Vancouver, …and other such stories "will address the potency of space, architecture, and the natural world as they relate to four areas of inquiry": 

  1. No Land Beyond: Reflects on landscapes of belonging and sovereignty that challenge narrow definitions of land as property and commodity. 
  2. Appearances and Erasures: Explores sites of memory and the politics of remembering and/or forgetting in contested spaces, considering space as a marker of past and present social imaginaries, visible or otherwise. 
  3. Rights and Reclamations: Interprets space—urban, territorial, environmental—as a site of advocacy and civic participation, investigating spatial practices that foreground the rights of humans and nature.
  4. Common Ground: Engages and addresses a constituency of actors and agents invested in developing tactics and methodologies for producing and intervening in public space—both within and beyond the field of architecture.

Although precisely worded and clearly reflecting the social and environmental circumstances of the second decade of the 21st century, it's hard (for this writer at least) to visualize the theme as an exhibition, one that will take place at the Chicago Cultural Center and other venues in the city from September 19, 2019, to January 5, 2020. But that should change once the participating architects, artists, and others from "a wide range of disciplines" are announced by the curatorial team. We will share that information once it's made available.

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