an architecture biennial unveils avant-garde ideas, materials, technologies and practices and serves as a forum for architects to make connections, collaborate with others and engage the public in issues and concerns in the field. the biennial also recognizes outstanding work in the industry.
the graham foundation is pleased to present the available city, part of the fourth edition of the 2021 chicago architecture biennial (cab). this edition marks a new approach to the biennial model, bridging the traditional exhibition format to a deeper engagement with the community to expand access and impact. offering opportunities to discover installations, exhibitions, and programs that explore transformative possibilities for vacant spaces in communities worldwide. the available city is curated by designer, researcher, and educator david brown. as artistic director, brown activates his ongoing, decade-long research project to document and reimagine new futures for vacant lots in american cities, including the more than 10,000 city-owned vacant lots in chicago. with over 80 contributors from more than 18 countries, and more than 100 cultural partners, the available city includes 15 site-specific architectural installations: located on public and private lots located in chicago’s neighborhoods of north lawndale, bronzeville, woodlawn, englewood, pilsen, and the south loop. there are also two exhibition-based explorations located in an unused storefront space in bronzeville and at the graham foundation.
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[ reflecting our (global) south side / matri-archi(tecture) / basel + cape town) ]
reflecting our (global) south side fosters a cultural-spatial dialogue, the design is temporal, dynamic, and reflective. the idea of availability is manifested as a pavilion of reflective floating circular disks perched above organic shaped public seating. the reflective surface invites visitors to playfully observe their surroundings, allowing for introspection and interaction. the installation encourages gathering through its circular forms, referencing the rich value of radial community planning, historically designed by communities in sub-saharan africa. ultimately, this circular navigation of space subverts the traditions of constricting communities in grids—grids similar to that of the city plan of chicago.
by drawing comparisons between matri-archi’s african references and chicago’s south side, the installation encourages visitors to explore links between everyday spatial practices that align local communities with those in sub-saharan africa through an emphasis on the role of design. qr codes appear on each pole, inviting visitors to scan into a virtual realm and reflect on the mirrored parallels between the familiar and unfamiliar surroundings.
through these material, digital, and design considerations, the installation encourages continuous conversation, reflection, and framing of moments that foreground the value of everyday spatial practices embedded in memory-making, dwelling, congregating, and moving—all of which allow for learning that is anchored in a generosity of spirit. this generosity of spirit represents an availability to engage with oneself, communities far and near, the site, and the city—all in all reflecting our (global) south side.
matri-archi(tecture) is an intersectional collective that empowers african women as a network dedicated to african-built development and spatial education. they action their ethos through their research unit and forthcoming spatial education program, focusing on transformation in partnership with spatial practitioners. matri-archi(tecture) is co-directed by khensani de klerk and solange mbanefo.
address: east 63rd street between university and woodlawn, chicago, il 60637
hours to visit: daily between 11am-4pm
project by: matri-archi(tecture)
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[ witness trees / hood design studio / oakland ]
trees that remain in place decades or even centuries after noteworthy events are referred to as witness trees. many were young when the events took place and have grown to be large, silent sentinels of history. in the early 1800s, surveyors in illinois planted “bearing trees” as landmarks to grid the ground. after centuries of development, many are still around today and are documented in the witness tree project. this project is a collaboration between the morton arboretum, the field museum, university of notre dame and the paleon project, and the u.s. geological survey.
the 2021 biennial has established new witness trees that record this year’s events—events that have shaped this epoch: a time of pandemic, racial reckoning, police brutality and reform, and climate crisis.
the new witness trees installation is inspired by the state’s orthogonal grid. tree grids are scaled to the site; at the corner of east 53rd and south prairie avenue, a grid is painted on the lawn at ten-foot intervals.
artist, designer, and educator walter j. hood founded hood design studio in oakland, california, in 1992. believing that everyone needs beauty in their lives, hood makes use of everyday objects for landscape design and public sculpture that generate new apertures through which to see the emergent beauty, strangeness, and idiosyncrasies of urban space. his firm’s nationally recognized projects include the de young museum gardens in san francisco’s golden gate park; the broad museum plaza, los angeles; and the arthur ross terrace and garden at the cooper hewitt, smithsonian design museum, new york. the studio has received numerous honors, including the american institute of architects (aia) award for collaborative achievement and the cooper hewitt national design award in landscape design. in addition to serving as creative director of his eponymous firm, hood is professor of landscape architecture, environmental planning, and urban design at the university of california, berkeley.
site address: 53rd street and south prairie. 60615
hours to visit: daily, between 11am-4pm.
project by: hood design studio
above> courtesy of negin moayer
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[ woodlawn canopies; stories and futures / projecthood / oakland ]
project h.o.o.d.’s outdoor space is the former location of a crime-ridden motel. the motel attracted the worst elements in the community and was a drain on the neighborhood’s morale and safety. ten years ago, new beginnings church’s senior pastor corey brooks did something. he camped out on the roof of the motel for 94 days to bring awareness to the neglect woodlawn was facing. it was during this time that he founded project h.o.o.d. and prayed for success. pastor brooks raised enough money for new beginnings church to purchase the land and demolish the motel. since then, project h.o.o.d. has hosted several community events at the outdoor space; basketball tournaments, an annual harvest fest, and many others.
in 2021 the vacant lot transformed into woodlawn canopies; stories and futures and ramped up construction in time for a 18 september gathering tied in with the 2021 chicago architecture biennial. plans include communal gatherings, performance, play, reflection, historic references, and adventure. the site features an interactive workspace, stage, and exhibition space that showcases the history of project h.o.o.d. uniting all elements is an approach to design that brings about unique moments in spatial freedom.
the creative team includes norman teague is a chicago-based designer and educator who focuses on projects and pedagogy that address the complexity of urbanism and the history of communities. specializing in custom furniture that delivers a personal touch and unique aesthetic detail, teague’s past projects have included consumer products, public sculpture, performances, and specially designed retail spaces.
negin moayer is a licensed architect, design director, and founder of bnmo design. she is a graduate of the university of wisconsin-milwaukee, school of architecture and urban planning, and has been living and working in chicago since 2006. moayer has worked at perkins+will, chicago, and hga, milwaukee. in 2015 she founded bnmo design. http://www.bnmodesign.com/
visit the [ chicago architecture biennial ] to explore more about the biennial, what is on view throughout the city, and upcoming programs and events. look for DesignApplause to spell out these events in weekly separate articles.
[ upcoming programming! ] #cab21 #chicagoarchitecturebiennial
photography by gloria araya
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