The 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial will showcase the work of over 140 participants, gathered together around the invitation to ‘Make New History’.

The Artistic Directors have drawn out a series of topics that structure the shared interests and practices between the architects and artists on show at the Chicago Cultural Center. These topics are Image, Material, Building, and Civic Histories highlighting different modes of architectural production; from the book to the city. Whether they take the form of drawings, installations, environments, or performances, biennial projects reflect the ongoing significance of the past, and the myriad ways that history is invoked in the production of new forms of architectural thought.

“Given the generational disposition of this Biennial, buildings are not always the end result,” says Mark Lee. “We think that producing ideas through different mediums—perhaps before one achieves the chance to build buildings, or maybe in lieu of that work—is relevant to the changing state of the discipline today.”

Exhibition Design

Artistic Directors Johnston Marklee will transform the Chicago Cultural Center by introducing a series of unique viewing experiences; from arcades and salons to labyrinthine galleries and lounges.

For four months, the rooms, galleries, and even hallways of the Cultural center will be transformed into spaces where visitors will experience both the Biennial and the historic building in new ways. The public lounges throughout the building will take inspiration from the Cultural Center’s long-standing role as an open gathering space in the heart of the city.

“The Cultural Center is a building that has been adapted from one use to another, so there are idiosyncrasies to all the rooms,” says Sharon Johnston. “Part of our thinking as architects was to try to think about it less as simply the flow of movement through the building, and more as taxonomizing and creating a collection of rooms that brought coherence to our exhibition design concepts.”


One major feature of Make New History is a contemporary exploration of the 1922 Chicago Tribune Tower ompetition at a monumental scale in the Cultural Center’s Yates Hall. Select participants have been invited to reimagine the landmark structure, which was famously revisited in a group exhibition organized by Stanley Tigerman in 1980, and produce new vertical visions that address the pressing issues of the twenty-first century.

Another primary element of the show is a collection of scale model dioramas which reconsider the interiors of some of architecture history’s most iconic buildings. The Cultural Center’s GAR Hall will be filled with an array of displays where visitors will be able to explore these new designs up close.

Make New History also includes an exhibition of ongoing experiments in contemporary architectural photography curated by Jesús Vasallo at the invitation of Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee, entitled A Love of the World. The exhibition represents a selection of works by some of the most innovative photographers in the field today.