Chicago 2021 – Under the theme The Available City, David Brown, curator of the Chicago Architecture Biennial 2021, invited 80 studios from 18 countries to team up with community residents for real. Together they developed and built site-specific architectural projects, exhibitions, and programs responding to the needs of the involved communities across eight different neighborhoods.
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The Available City marks a new approach to the biennial model, bridging from an exhibition format to a deeper engagement with the locals. “Through its unique connection to urban design, the Biennial thus becomes engaged in the making of the city—and is itself changed.” Says David Brown. “In exploring The Available City, the 2021 Biennial opens up questions of what could and should be the relationship of biennials to urban design and the city.”
Some example? Tokyo-based Atelier Bow-Wow has designed a space for gathering and engagement in the Englewood Village Plaza through a co-creation process with Grow Greater Englewood. This social enterprise works with residents and developers to create sustainable food economies and green businesses to empower residents to develop wellness and wealth.
Swiss studio Manuel Hertz Architects has developed a site-specific installation that contemplates a future for the Central Park Theater that promotes and highlights the community of North Lawndale in collaboration with The Central Park Theater Restoration Committee.
Through a community workshop organized by with Open Architecture Chicago and Freedom House, Outpost Office from Columbus, OH, teamed up with residents to transform a vacant urban patch. Together they created an architectural-scale urban painting by using GPS-guided robots.
In Bell Park, Miami-based Studio Barnes, Shawhin Roudbari, Colorado, MAS Context, Chicago, and the Westside Association for Community Action (WACA) celebrate the city’s West and South Side’s rich history of block parties with a shock pink architectural installation. The structure mimics the look and feel of the blow-up bounce houses that are staples of block parties.
Two main exhibitions also accompany the fourth edition of the Chicago Architecture Biennial. At the Graham Foundation, among others, Indonesia-based studio SHAU presents its micro-library architectures responding to low reading interest in the country and created in collaboration with local villages. On show also projects by the Chilean-French studio Plan Comun collaborative research conducted by Plan Común focusing on the production of spatial strategies to maximize and strengthen communal space.
In an unused storefront space at the Bronzeville Artist Lofts, visitors can discover projects by Christophe Hutin Architecture from Bordeaux, France, Drawing Architecture Studio from Beijing, China, Departamento del Distrito and El Cielo from Mexico City, Mexico, Enlace Arquitectura + Ciudad Laboratorio from Caracas, Venezuela, fala from Porto, Portugal, and RIFF Studio from New York, NY.
Over 100 collateral events and exhibitions take over Chicago as well. Highlights include the first exhibition in Studio Gang’s new Wicker Park gallery space, exploring the studio’s collaboration with apparel manufacturing workers co-op Blue Tin Production. Together, they transform a vacant former post office in Chicago Lawn into a new production headquarters and community hub.
SOM – Skidmore Owings and Merrill, in partnership with the University of Michigan’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, has built an outdoor pavilion utilising robotic fabrication techniques for Epic Academy in the South Shore district. Have fun at the new mini-golf course by Douglass 18, redesigned with a theme of bird conservation – a project led by the Lincoln Park Zoo.
- The Chicago Architecture Biennial is free and open to the public beginning on Friday, September 17. It will be on view at sites and in locations throughout the city, activated through in-person and online programming through December 18, 2021.