The Biennial

The Chicago Architecture Biennial is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to creating an international forum on architecture and urbanism through the production of distinctive exhibitions and public programs. The Biennial creates new opportunities every two years for emerging talent in architecture, design, and the arts to engage a wide public audience.   

The Chicago Architecture Biennial is committed to providing a platform to unite the global vanguard of architectural thought and practice with the city of Chicago’s unique legacy of architectural innovation. In addition to its biennial constellation of exhibitions, full-scale installations, programming, and educational initiatives, the organization stewards and promotes an ongoing dialogue on architecture in and around the city. Each edition of the Chicago Architecture Biennial takes as its core a theme that addresses the most compelling issues in contemporary architectural practice. Designed to deepen and expand the conversation on architecture and the built environment with field leaders and everyday citizens, the Chicago Architecture Biennial is a platform created to further our understanding globally and locally of the way we organize society through the exploration of the built environment. The Biennial seeks to envision a future of architecture that is, first and foremost, shared, inclusive, diverse, sustainable, and equitable.

The inaugural 2015 Chicago Architecture Biennial was the manifestation of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s vision for a major international architectural event and a product of the comprehensive cultural plan developed by Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. Titled The State of the Art of Architecture, the 2015 Biennial was curated by Artistic Directors Sarah Herda of the Graham Foundation and architect, critic, curator, and editor Joseph Grima and centered on a 1977 conference organized by  architect Stanley Tigerman. The inaugural Biennial expanded the spirit and scope of this event, inviting an international and intergenerational architectural network to Chicago to explore  how visionary design can take on the most pressing issues of today. The 2015 Biennial encompassed an array of exhibitions, full-scale installations, and diverse programming. The Biennial provided the public an opportunity to engage with and think about architecture in new and unexpected ways and to take part in a global discussion on the future of the built environment.

For the second edition of the Biennial in 2017, the exhibition and programming was curated under the artistic and curatorial leadership of Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee from the Los Angeles–based firm Johnston Marklee & Associates, which also participated in the inaugural Biennial. The Artistic Directors developed a series of topics for their show titled MAKE NEW HISTORY, including image, material, building, and civic histories and highlighted different modes of architectural production from the book to the city.

Through drawings, installations, environments, and performances, biennial projects from both editions reflected the ongoing significance of contemporary discourse that is founded in the myriad ways that history is invoked in the production of new forms of architectural thought.

The third edition of the Biennial will open September 19, 2019, and will convene the world’s leading practitioners, theorists, and commentators in the field of architecture and urbanism to further explore, debate, and demonstrate the significance of architectural concepts in contemporary society. The 2019 Chicago Architecture Biennial is led by Artistic Director Yesomi Umolu with curators Sepake Angiama and Paulo Tavares.  


Artistic Directors

  • Yesomi Umolu

  • Johnston Marklee

  • Joseph Grima & Sarah Herda


Board of Directors

  • Jack Guthman

  • Ambassador Louis Susman

    Director Emeritus
  • Michelle T. Boone

  • Robert Clark

  • Keating Crown

  • Valerie Corr Hanserd

  • Sarah Herda

  • Helyn Goldenberg

  • Lynn Lockwood Murphy

  • Robin Loewenberg Tebbe

  • Juan Moreno

  • Mark P. Sexton

  • Thomas Weeks

  • RaMona Westbrook

International Advisory Committee

  • David Adjaye

  • Wiel Arets

  • Elizabeth Diller

    New York
  • Jeanne Gang

  • Frank Gehry

    Los Angeles
  • Joseph Grima

  • Sylvia Lavin

    Los Angeles
  • Lord Peter Palumbo

  • Zoë Ryan

  • Martino Stierli

    New York
  • Stanley Tigerman (*)

  • Hans Ulrich Obrist



  • Todd Palmer

    Executive Director
  • Rachel Kaplan

    Deputy Director
  • Karla Aguiniga

    Public Programs & Engagement Coordinator
  • Cathy Hsiao

    Digital Content Coordinator
  • James Lambrix

    Exhibition Coordinator
  • Tess Landon

    Manager of Learning Initiatives
  • Jennifer Latshaw

    Special Events Coordinator
  • Lauren McPhillips

    Manager of Public Programs & Partnerships
  • Megan Moran

    Learning Initiatives Coordinator
  • Therese Marie Peskowits

    Exhibition Manager
  • Alex Priest

    Assistant Curator
  • Christine Pundavela

    Manager of Communications & Marketing
  • Cecília Resende Santos

    Curatorial Fellow
  • Michael Savona

    Design Coordinator
  • Unyimeabasi Udoh

    Graphic Designer
  • Marguerite Wynter

    Assistant Curator

Contact & Press

Chicago Architecture Biennial 78 E. Washington St. Chicago, IL 60602



For Press and Media Inquiries

US media contacts: Sara Griffin Camron PR sara.griffin@camronpr.com 917.675.4378 Helen Cowdrey Camron PR helen.cowdrey@camronpr.com 917.675.4359 Chicago/regional contact: Kimberly Writt Agency H5 kwritt@agencyH5.com 312.374.8581 International media contacts: Max Tobias Camron PR max.tobias@camronpr.com +44 (0)20 7420 1700 Hannah Perry Camron PR hannah.perry@camronpr.com +44 (0)20 7420 1700


If you are interested in one of the following opportunities please contact: info@chicagoarchitecturebiennial.org

For questions regarding volunteer opportunities please contact: volunteers@chicagoarchitecturebiennial.org


Each edition, the Chicago Architecture Biennial welcomes over 500,000 visitors to the Chicago Cultural Center and community sites across the city from September 19, 2019–January 5, 2020. Volunteers make it possible for diverse local and global audiences to access the topics explored by the exhibition. Biennial volunteers hold the important role of welcoming and interacting with the public. Biennial volunteers will provide essential assistance to our team through greeting visitors, leading tours, and providing program and event support.

Volunteers will be needed between September 16, 2019 and January 5, 2020.

If you are interested in volunteering with the Biennial, please complete a Volunteer Interest Form.