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Chicago Architecture Biennial Announces Hundreds Of Free Events

By Jessica Mlinaric in Arts & Entertainment on Sep 18, 2015 4:30PM

Credit: Iwan Baan Courtesy of Chicago Architecture Biennial

The Chicago Architecture Biennial has announced its programming schedule, which includes over 200 free public events in more than 100 institutions across the city.

The city that established modern architecture will host the largest international survey of contemporary architecture in North America from Oct. 3 through Jan. 3, 2016. Over 100 architects and artists from more than 30 countries will be represented at the inaugural exhibition.

The biennial is not only geared toward industry gurus, but emphasizes opportunities for locals and design enthusiasts to take advantage of the creative star power activating Chicago.

“The Biennial’s public programs will invite audiences to think about architecture in unexpected ways,” said Biennial Co-Artistic Director Sarah Herda, as well as what architecture means today.

The biennial’s intentionally broad theme, The State of the Art of Architecture, invites a wide range of public programming, including performances, installations, tours, film screenings and workshops. The exhibition aims to initiate a conversation around how design can enhance cultural life and address pressing contemporary issues.

Among the event’s offerings are lectures by Pritzker Prize winning architects Jacques Herzog and Thom Mayne. One documentary will examine the Voices of Cabrini (a four-year chronicle of the Cabrini-Green housing projects their destruction and their community's future), while another panel imagines the future of Chicago’s urban change. Several architectural and neighborhood tours are available, ranging from the shore of the Riverwalk to the heart of Pilsen and the sacred heights of the First United Methodist Church’s “Sky Chapel.”

Like the architectural discipline itself, the programming balances concrete themes, such as teen experiences of public housing, with more interpretive renderings of architecture, such as a dance collaboration and a performance based on Julius Caesar’s bridges over the Rhineland.

The South Shore Drill Team will perform at Federal Plaza in a series titled “We Know How to Order.” The performances will highlight social expectations of common space as the inner-city youth group transforms the federal government grounds with their expressive rendition of conventional military drills.

Credit: Chicago Architecture Biennial

Education is another focus of the Chicago Architecture Biennial’s programming. The biennial has partnered with the Chicago Architecture Foundation to create a suite of education programs designed to expose thousands of Chicago-area youth to architecture and design. Education opportunities will include design challenges, field trips, “master classes” with architects and designers, and a Teen Ambassador program.

“Each of our programs, tours, and exhibitions are designed to inspire people to discover why design matters, and we are uniquely positioned to be the platform for youth education,” said Lynn Osmond, President and CEO of Chicago Architecture Foundation. “The Biennial will engage local residents and attract thousands of visitors from around the globe, and we are honored to have the opportunity to interact with our young aspiring designers, both locally and nationally.”

While the Chicago Cultural Center serves as the biennial’s main hub, venues stretch across the city and beyond. If you’ve been awaiting an excuse to visit Mies van Der Rohe’s Farnsworth House in Plano and the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed SC Johnson corporate headquarters in Racine, Wisconsin, take advantage of the biennial’s free transportation shuttles and tours.

One especially anticipated venue is Theaster Gates’ Stony Island Arts Bank. The Chicagoan and internationally renowned artist refurbished an abandoned former bank for use as a cultural center. "The once-vibrant commercial strip is active with the basics of a black strip mall but is culturally starved and in need of economic investment and more care," Gates told the Tribune.

The arts bank will function as an exhibition space and library featuring the University of Chicago's and Art Institute of Chicago's slide collections, Frankie Knuckles’ record collection, and the Johnson Publishing archive. The free and public opening of the Arts Bank coincides with the first day of the biennial on Oct. 3.

Credit: Chicago Architecture Biennial

While the biennial brings international stars like BIG and Atelier Bow-Wow to Chicago, it also brings Chicago to the global conversation. If the goal of good design is to improve life and encourage connections, the Chicago Architecture Biennial is offering the public hundreds of free opportunities to build something great this season.

All Biennial programming is open to the public. Select events and programs require online registration. Admission fees may apply to select partner programs.