The Chicago Cultural Center building was renovated in the 1970s to extend and transform the old public library into its new configuration. In merging a building that was designed for the distribution and storage of books with other civic functions left many interstitial spaces—like the Landmark Gallery—that suffer from an ambiguous identity as both gallery and corridor. It is too wide to be a hallway and too narrow to comfortably view exhibitions. One of several site-specific commissions for the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial, Paul and Paul created a sequence of small galleries to house works selected by Jesús Vassallo as part of the photographic exhibition A Love of the World. The new rooms are defined by four pairs of heavy walls with curious stepped forms that reach toward the ramp overhead; they are made of structural glazed tile—a material commonly used in train stations, public schools, recreation centers, and other municipal buildings—in brick red and beige. The unconventional use of tile and the enfilade layout, which has been a defining form of museums and urban thoroughfares for centuries, sharpens the gallery’s unique convergence of fine arts and public works.
Paul Andersen and Paul Preissner are Chicago-based architects who first worked together on a pair of barns in Denver’s primary urban park for the Biennial of the Americas. Ordinarily, they run separate offices that invest in formal and informal work, with associations with pop and alternative cultures. Their collaborative work combines their different interests and results in thoughtful, and sometimes polemical, speculative and built projects. Their collaborative title is Paul and Paul, and their work has been published in the Chicago Tribune, Domus, Architectural Record, PLOT, and numerous other national and international publications. The office was recognized with a Chicago AIA Honor Award for its pavilion for the Biennial of the Americas (2013).