|click images for larger view|
For an opening salvo for what is hoped to be a continuing event, the Biennial can be judged a major success. According to official sources, by the time it closes, it should have drawn nearly a quarter of million people to the Cultural Center (no, I don't know how they count them either, and as critic Edward Keegan has noted that's only 38% over what the CCL drew in the same period the year before.)
|John Ronan at the Chicago Architecture Biennial|
|Summer Vault - Independent Architecture|
and Paul Preissner Architects
|Photograph courtesy: Rebuild Foundation|
|Grid | River | Landmark, first prize,|
Perkins+Will DLC Design Competition
Yanwen Xiao and Silas Haslam
|Tim Samuelson and Tom Burtonwood|
photo courtesy Thorsten Bösch.
|The Big Shift|
Given Tigerman's commitment to making architecture something more than just "designing houses for the rich", his enthusiasm for The Big Shift is a bit of a puzzler. If we are going to create more landfill downtown, it should be more in line with Daniel Burnham's vision - shifting the huge boat parking lots that now dominate the lakefront to a new island or islands to free up the actual lakefront for beaches and greenspace, with maybe a tower or two in the mix.
|The High Life|
|3D Design Studio entry for The Available City|
The key to all of these is they did what the Biennial is supposed to do. They inspired intelligent debate. The greatest value of the Biennial was not in itself, but in the response, which came from two opposite directions.
|Stuart Cohen and Robert Bruegmann at the Studebaker|
From the futurist side, Zaha Hadid, recently in Chicago for a long-awaited appearance, dismissed the Biennial as "a cute show." More detailed dissent came from Hadid Architects Senior Designer Patrik Schumacher who through several Chicago appearances became a sort of counter-Biennial in his own person.
Schumacher went on first, electrifying the room with an impassioned critique. "I have just been to the exhibition yesterday," he said, "and there was virtually next to nothing which I recognize as relevant contemporary architecture." He talked of "an imperative of coherence which implies a rejection of pluralism. We can only accept pluralism as a temporary sort of condition during periods of crisis-induced paradigm shifts and the last one was the 1980's . . . We have to reject the fabulistic acceptance of a pluralism [as] an insurmountable condition of post-modernity."
"I think we should work from a benign intolerance as I would like to call it . . . The principle of indiscriminate tolerance . . . ultimately denies the possibility of a comparative variation of positions, paradigms and styles. So that ultimately denies the discipline of rationality, denies the possibility of progress."
Schumacher expanded on his thoughts in subsequent lectures at both UIC and IIT. His ideas are fascinating and truly provocative in the best sense of the word, even when you see major disconnects between his analysis and conclusions. This kind of Salon des Refusés insinuated itself into the Biennial in a way that broadened and enriched its scope and cohesiveness. Which leads me to . . .
Some final Thoughts on the First Chicago Architecture Biennial
2. The Cultural Center and the Biennial is a match made in heaven. The scale and finish of the building proclaims both "public" and "capacious". The many white-wall galleries provided the accustomed neutral settings for installations, while the ornate interiors of the Yates Gallery and GAR hall provided a surprisingly contrasting and supportive backdrop for the often minimalist modern exhibits.
. . . and Second Thoughts for the Next
1. If this year's theme was a survey-driven The State of Architecture, perhaps the next logically should be The Future of Architecture, organized around a clear dialectic - pure form versus sustainability, large versus small-architecture as an expression of prevailing power versus an instrument of subversion, etc. - that offers up a coherent foundation for discourse. Or perhaps simply make the next Biennial a symposium of the relationship between power and architecture.
2. Encourage more architect presentations that go beyond "and-then-I-designed" dog and pony shows to talk about the ideas first and then how the work ties into them.
3. Scout satellite locations that can merge the Biennial within the city's globally-recognized architecture. The Federal Center Plaza, UIC-West Side, IIT-Bronzeville, etc.
4. Look for sponsors for regular bus shuttles to remote sites.
|Sarah Herda, Michelle Boone|
Let's do it again
Carnival of Possibilities: A Photographic Tour of the First Morning of the Chicago Architecture Biennial.
Little Houses on the Lakefront: The four kiosks of the Chicago Architectural Biennial
Bombs Away! Stanley Tigerman unveils Titanic 2015