Spotlight on Chicago Architecture Biennial

A 2014 installation by Barcelona-based firm Maio will be one of more than 60 participants at this fall’s Chicago Architecture Biennial.

America’s Second City, already an architectural epicenter, is about the get the nation's first architecture biennial. From October 3 to January 3, the city will host exhibitions, installations, and film screenings with more than 60 artists and architects from upwards of 30 countries. Titled “The State of the Art of Architecture,” the Chicago Architecture Biennial (CAB) promises to depart from the design scene’s crowded calendar by making tradition and establishment secondary to the pressing issues of today.

"One of the strongest features of this biennial is that it's native to the 21st century," says co-artistic director Joseph Grima, whose roster of cutting edge participants includes Danish star Bjarke Ingels, who is slated to design 2 World Trade Center; New York’s MOS Architects, which received the National Design Award this year; and Tokyo-based legend Sou Fujimoto.

And the fair has deep pockets to boot. Mayor Rahm Emanuel is its foremost supporter, personally procuring a $2.5 million donation from oil-and-gas-giant BP and paving the way for the use of venues such as Millenium Park. Given Chicago’s architectural credentials, it’s arguably the biennial’s most natural location. But it’s more than that for Grima. “The city’s historical trajectory has seen problems like social segregation and inequality,” he says. “It pioneered modernity, and it’s now leading the way in which these rising challenges can be addressed—and with architecture at the forefront.”