The Chicago Architecture Biennial

This year I had a chance to visit the Chicago Architecture Biennial that was held at Chicago cultural center. The word “biennial” comes from the Italian word “biennale” which means “every other year” describing an event that happens every 2 years. The first Art Biennial was held in Venice in 1895, "la biennale di Venezia” showing contemporary art work from all over the world and in 1980, architecture section was established which served as an archetype for architecture exhibitions.

The Architecture Biennial brings together architects around the world, it is a hub for inspiration and a host for art to merge and spread. As I grew and studied architecture in Egypt, it was always my dream to cross the Mediterranean and participate in the Venice biennial but never got the chance to. So, this year when I knew that Chicago, the avant-garde city of arts, will host their second architecture biennial for North America, I was very excited and had to be there. The choice to hold the event at the cultural center was great as you can enjoy the walk in the center as much as you enjoy the exhibitions.

Stained glass dome in the Grand Army of the Republic rotunda at the Chicago Cultural Center.

Stained glass dome in the Grand Army of the Republic rotunda at the Chicago Cultural Center.

The theme was “make a new history” which provokes the question whether contemporary architecture could make history one day. The interpretation of the vertical and horizontal city of Chicago was the highlight of the biennial.

Two projects caught my Attention at the exhibition, the first one by Charles Waldheim with Harvard GSD office and Siena Scarff Design. The project is an exploration of urban Chicago by redesigning the morphology of the towers based on optimized solar performance. It is interesting to see how ecological studies could change the character of the future city.

Red Wall.jpg

The second project was collaboration of 15 architectural firms. The architects were exploring the vertical city by Reinterpreting the Tribune Tower. In this project they built a vertical structure in the same way the city was built by bringing the suburban characters and layering history vertically. Their main theme was to allow for individual expression and to show the city character.

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I believe that exhibitions and world fairs could bring the world to us just as travel. They are sources of inspiration and they also open a dialogue to Initiate transformation by bringing together and blending different cultures. These dialogues are essential for our survival and impacts our behavior towards this shared world. Even if boarders cut through it, it remains a shared one globe where every act counts.