Chicago 2019 – Chicago Architecture Biennial 2019 has opened its doors exploring the way architecture shapes, and is shaped by, culture, history, and nature around the world, asking critical questions about how architecture has informed our present. Until the 5th of January 2020, over 80 contributors from 22 countries showcase installations and exhibitions tuning with the …and other such stories main theme, a collective narrative highlighting the field’s “power to shape a better, more sustainable, and more equitable future.”
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“Chicago, like many other established and emergent global metropolises, faces challenging urban conditions that require the reimagining of forms of exchange between human activity, technology, and the natural world.” Explains the artistic director Yesomi Umolu who co-curated the biennial with Sepake Angiama and Paulo Tavares. “Our goal was to find inspiration in the built environment of Chicago that would spur a conversation globally on our rights, memories, and relationship with nature.”
The third edition of the biennial takes over the city with a large program of exhibitions, talks and events, starting from the main venue, the historic Chicago Cultural Center. All activities are free and open to the public. The main theme …and such other stories is structured by a series of curatorial frames: No Land Beyond, Appearances and Erasures, Rights and Reclamations and Common Ground.
No Land Beyond
The sub-theme “thinks through alternative designs and relationships between nature, society, and the built environment”. On show projects reflecting on landscapes of belonging and sovereignty that challenge narrow definitions of land as property and commodity. Some examples? Discover the current state of the home villages and their younger generations’ lifestyle in the Dheisheh refugee camp in Palestine, the 70 years old temporary city and unique World Heritage Site.
How the oil industry has infiltrated and disrupted global finance, communities, and the natural environment? Discover the Museum of Oil, a project initially developed in collaboration with Greenpeace by the Territorial Agency which combines architecture, analysis, advocacy.
Appearances and Erasures
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,” explain the curators.
MASS Design Group and Hank Willis Thomas honour the lives of gun violence victims with The Gun Violence Memorial Project, a collaborative glass village-like installation inviting visitors to contribute with stories and memories with the aim to trigger reflection on a US epidemic which is often merely reduced to statistics.
Rights and Reclamations
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”. Wendelien van Oldenborgh have created a cinema set where to discover the ideals of the Bauhaus-trained architect Lotte Stam-Beese and the activist and writer Hermina Huiswoud, who fought for racial and class equality through communism in the 1930s and 1940s.
South African studio Wolff Architects addresses social inequities and the erasure of Indigenous landscapes and narratives. Their Summer Flowers research project looks at the life of South African writer, activist, and gardener Bessie Head (1937–1986) as well as her experience as a person of mixed race living in South Africa under Apartheid and then later in exile in Botswana.
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.
Forensic Architecture teamed up with the Chicago-based Invisible Institute to investigate through architectural and spacial tools the police “false narrative” of the death of Augustus Harith, a 37-year-old African-American barber who was shot dead by the Chicago Police Department in 2018 [Find out more].
All images: courtesy of Chicago Architecture Biennial.