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
  • 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


Chicago Architecture Biennial contributor Jimmy Robert is seeking performers to participate in Descendances du nu, a performance by Jimmy Robert. Descendances du nu, is a direct reference to Marcel Duchamp’s famous 1912 painting Nude Descending a Staircase. Originally performed at the Centre D’Art Contemporain La Synagogue de Delme in France, the performer’s body crawls on the ground, vulnerable, suggesting new approach to the space. For the performance at Le Synagogue and the forthcoming installation at the Chicago Cultural Center, the body becomes a powerful tool in reacting to the site in a way that might not have been intended by the architect.

The artist is opening up the performance to a larger group of performers from the city to infuse the piece with their experience and propose different readings of the work by bringing different bodies, gender, colors. Performers will move through the installation in the Chicago Cultural Center with a large headpiece for the duration of the performance.

About Jimmy Robert

Jimmy Robert’s practice encompasses performance, photography, film, video, anddrawing, frequently collapsing distinctions between these mediums. Using photographyas a starting point for his works on paper, Robert blurs the divisions between two andthree dimensions, as well as between image and object. This interest in blurredboundaries integrates his performative work—which includes choreographed elementsin the context of an exhibition or in relationship to architecture—with his larger practice. In previous works he has explored the politics of spectatorship by reworking seminalavant-garde performances in ways that complicate their racial and gendered readings.Robert’s work has been featured in a solo exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, in commissions by Performa 17 and the Glass House, in performances at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, at the Berlin and Dakar biennials, and ina Satellite presentation organized by the Jeu de Paume, Paris.


- Performers with background in dance/movement • Open to non professional performers

- Must be able to perform 20 minutes continuously with covered headpiece

- All ages and genders are welcome



- The performance is part of a larger installation within the Chicago Cultural Center, which will be on view September 19th , 2019 - January 5th, 2020.

- The 20 minute performance will run twice a week at the Chicago Cultural Center, beginning the week of September 16th through end of November (10 weeks).

- This is a paid opportunity 

Application Materials: 

Please submit your name, Resume/CV and full availability for all days to 

marguertie@chicagoarchitecturebiennial.org by September 1, 2019 with Jimmy Roberts: Open Call in the subject.


Application: September 1st for audition sign ups
Auditions: September 9th & 10th (times forthcoming)
Rehearsals: 5 days, September 11th – 13th (times forthcoming)


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.
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