Don't miss: Chicago Architecture Biennial

The Chicago Architecture Biennial, with its focus on young firms, is a magnet for anyone interested in design in the Windy City

By Sam Phillips
Published 31 Oct 2015, 08:00 GMT, Updated 5 Jul 2021, 12:14 BST

While Venice has staged a biannual architecture festival for three decades, held in the fallow years between art events, it has taken until this autumn for another city — Chicago — to attempt anything as ambitious about the built environment. We take a look at the highlights:

Chicago Cultural Center: This beautiful beaux arts building is the inaugural biennial's beating heart, acting as the main venue for the festival's overarching exhibition 'The State of the Art of Architecture'. Don't expect well-known names — the architects included are emerging and experimental, drawn from cities including Jakarta, Karachi and Cape Town.

Millennium Park: Four pop-up pavilions — three made in collaboration with local architecture students — are installed in the city's Millennium Park during the festival. Look out for the towering limestone and concrete structure designed by Nigerian architect Kunlé Adeyemi. Known as 'kiosks', these structures will be set on the lakefront after the biennial.

Stoney Island Arts Bank: This grand but derelict 1920s bank now has contemporary art as its currency, thanks to a restoration project by one of the city's most influential artists, Theaster Gates. Its inaugural exhibition will take place during the festival, with a host of site-specific commissions including a courtyard space designed by Mexican architect Frida Escobedo.

Partner Programmes: Arts venues across the city stage ambitious architecture-related events during the biennial, from panel discussions and film screenings to major exhibitions. Highlights include surveys of the starchitects David Adjaye and Richard Meier, at the Art Institute and Mana Contemporary respectively.

Take a Tour: Chicago itself is an exhibition of modern architecture, having pioneered the skyscraper back in the 19th century. The biennial and its partners have arranged tours of the city's historic gems, including Oak Park Village, a district featuring 25 buildings by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Published in the November 2015 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)


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