Traces of Past Futures

The Central Park Theater was one of the most important social and cultural hubs of Chicago; it was the place where Benny Goodman played his first concerts in the 1920s; it was where gospel and blues musicians invented new styles in the 1950s and 1960s. 

This project for the 2021 Chicago Architecture Biennial, titled Traces of Past Futures, prompts residents and viewers to envision a future where the Central Park Theater forms the nucleus of a neighborhood as an important social and cultural hub for the city as a whole.

Central Park Theater Restoration Committee Members, Blanche Killingsworth, Mary Lu Seidel, Tashona Marshall; and architect Manuel Herz will discuss the collaboration and process in developing the site-specific installation, Traces of Past Futures. This conversation will be moderated by Central Park Theater Restoration Committee Member and Future Firm Co-Founder Ann Lui.


Based in Basel, Switzerland, Manuel Herz Architects is an architectural practice that is embedded in research, and is operating on a very wide range of typologies, locations and scales, from the architectural to the urban and territorial. Its completed projects include the Synagogue of Mainz, an apartment building with moving facades "Ballet Mécanique" in Zurich, and a hospital in Tambacounda, Senegal. Presently under development are a large-scale residential complex comprising over 200 apartments in Cologne, a Synagogue for the Babyn Yar memorial area in Kiev, Ukraine, as well as other projects across Europe and the African continent. Beyond the architectural scale, Manuel Herz has been active in furniture and exhibition design, as well as in urban master planning and urban research. His projects have won numerous international design awards, have been exhibited in museums world wide, and acquired into the collection of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), amongst others. His office currently employs twelve people.

The Central Park Theater Restoration Committee is an interdisciplinary group of partners working in collaboration towards the revival of the Central Park Theater.

Future Firm is a Chicago-based architecture and design research office. We are architects for changemakers, in Chicago and beyond. Founded by Ann Lui and Craig Reschke in 2015, the architecture practice spans diverse scales: from exhibition spaces to residential and commercial buildings to urban and territorial speculations. We focus on using design to synthesize the aims and efforts of multiple stakeholders, catalyze transformation for individuals and groups, and create flexible space for diverse needs. We excel at working with clients who are changemakers in their own communities. Our work helps develop novel approaches towards community and belonging when multiple stakeholders come to the table. We use technical expertise and collaborative means to create spaces which bring together diverse agendas as more than the sum of their parts.


Chicago Architecture Biennial's InDialogue Series is supported by Hindman Auctions.

Hindman, an internationally recognized fine art auction house, offers its clients an unyielding focus on service and holistic solutions to connect to the global art market. Hindman conducts over 100 auctions annually in 52 collecting categories such as fine art, jewelry, modern design, books and manuscripts, furniture, native American art, decorative arts, antiquities, couture, and Asian works of art. Founded and headquartered in Chicago, Hindman is now represented in 13 cities in the United States and operates five salerooms, more than any other auction house in the country.

Installation view, "Traces of Past Futures", Chicago Architecture Biennial, 2021. Photo: Nathan Keay.