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The Chicago Architecture Biennial (CAB) opened last weekend, on October 3rd, with over 31,000 visitors attending the inaugural festivities and events. The artistic directors, Joseph Grima – Genoa-based architect and writer, former editor at Domus and director of Matera 2019 European Capital of Culture – and Sarah Herda – director of Graham Foundation – opted for a flexible, collaborative approach, that engages the public in a “global discussion on the future of the field”, as CAB state.

Directors Sarah Herda and Joseph Grima, Image Courtesy of chicagoarchitecture.org

Directors Sarah Herda and Joseph Grima, Image Courtesy of chicagoarchitecture.org

“The State of the Art of Architecture” is the headline of the biennial. It was borrowed from a symposium architect Stanley Tigerman organized in 1977 at the Graham Foundation. “We’re looking at architecture as a cultural practice, as opposed to a professional practice, so it’s as much about the ideas that shape buildings as it is about buildings in and of themselves”, Herda explained in an interview earlier this year. In the introduction of the catalog, directors describe the biennial as a “a round table at which people of all ages, backgrounds and origins are invited to present their outlook” regarding the profession and the field of architecture.

The Biennial’s participants include Japan’s Sou Fujimoto and Junya Ishigami, Danish architecture office BIG, Chicago-based SOM, Dutch photographer Iwan Baan, Spanish architecture office Selgascano (designers of this year’s Serpentine Pavilion) and Andres Jaque, or Mexico’s Tatiana Bilbao. The CAB international advisory committee also includes high-profile names, such as Frank Gehry, Hans Ulrich Obrist or David Adjaye.

Chicago Aerial View, Image Courtesy of CAB

Chicago Aerial View, Image Courtesy of CAB

The central large-scale exhibition is housed by the Chicago Cultural Center, the city’s first public library built in 1897. Other venues, managed by the City of Chicago, include Expo 72, City Gallery in the Historic Water Tower and Millennium Park. Mayor Rahm Emanuel officially opened the biennial, which is the largest of its kind in North America – and set on odd years, to alternate with the Venice Biennale, the European counterpart, set on even ones. Mayor Emanuel was the one who envisioned the biennial, part of the cultural plan developed by the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) and its commissioner, Michelle T. Boone.

The Chicago Architecture Biennial is open until January 3rd, 2016. For details regarding ongoing events and the program, make sure to visit the official website.

By: Ana Cosma

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