Chicago Architecture Biennial draws half a million visitors, will return in 2019

By Taylor Hartz | Staff Writer

Published January 22, 2018

More than 550,000 visitors turned out for the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial, the city’s second such event celebrating of all things architecture. But if you missed out, don’t worry – it’ll be back. Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced in January that the Chicago Architecture Biennial will return for a third run in 2019.

The global event, which closed on Jan. 7, highlighted the work of 140 architects and designers from 20 countries. Over the course of five months, the Architecture Biennial served as a platform for groundbreaking architectural ideas, including exhibits, full-scale installations, spatial experiments, trips to Chicago’s most iconic sights, and contributions from Chicago students with an eye for design.

Launched in 2015, the mission of the event is to “demonstrate how creativity and innovation can radically transform our lived experience,” according to the Biennial group.  

Mayor Emanuel in a January statement called the Architecture Biennial “a tremendous cultural, educational and economic success for our city,” that reinforced Chicago’s reputation as the vanguard of architectural, art and design innovation.

The Water Tower at 806 North Michigan Avenue was built in 1869 and was one of the “core sites” of the 2017-2018 Chicago Architectural Biennial. The event will return in September 2019. | Photo: Taylor Hartz

The theme in 2017-2018 was “Make New History”. The free, citywide event attracted over 290,000 visitors to the “core sites” – the Chicago Cultural Center and the City Gallery in the Historic Water Tower – while another 260,000 people visited architectural sites throughout the region, Hyde Park Art Center, DuSable Museum of African American History, the National Museum of Mexican Art and the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture.

Visitors also got to explore several special project sites around the city, where activities were hosted in the Pedway, at Navy Pier, and at the Mies van der Rohe Farnsworth House in Plano, Illinois.

Mark Lee, one of the artistic directors for the 2017-2018 event, called the most recent season a “transformative year” for the event.

“It has been incredibly meaningful to engage with architects and artists from around the world in questions of history and architecture as an evolutionary practice,” said Lee.

The next architecture biennial will open September 19, 2019, aligning again with the opening of Expo Chicago, the seventh annual International Exposition of Contemporary and Modern Art, at Navy Pier.  The theme has not yet been announced.



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