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Mayor Lightfoot is an advocate for architecture and design, Maurice Cox says

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City leaders kick off the Chicago Architecture Biennial

Steps with gold railings lead to a large archway with gold metal doors. There is a green and purple banner on either side with the Chicago Architecture Bienniel titles.
Washington Street entrance of the Chicago Cultural Center
Sara Freund

The Chicago Architecture Biennial, a massive citywide design festival, opens on Thursday. The event’s third edition titled “...and such other stories” commissioned work from artists, architects, and visionaries that explores how the built environment shapes communities, cities, and nature.

On Monday night, the city’s new Commissioner of Planning and Development Maurice Cox welcomed contributors, curators, and partners to the biennial at an opening reception at the Chicago Architecture Center. It was one of his first assignments on the job and joked he’d only been on the job just about eight hours before arriving to the event.

Cox left Detroit to take Chicago’s top city planning job. He is also an architect and was the former design director at the National Endowment for the Arts in Washington, D.C.

“I’m particularly excited for what is about to happen for Chicago. Lori Lightfoot was the reason I accepted the appointment. I was sitting with her just an hour ago briefing her with where we would like to go with the city. I just think you could not be more pleased to know that you have an advocate in the Mayor of Chicago, an advocate for design. We talked pretty extensively about that topic,” said Cox.

In Detroit, Cox is known for leading an initiative which created neighborhoods residents wanted to stay in long term by improving streets, parks, and amenities. For those curious about Detroit’s transformation, the city’s development department has a biennial exhibition on the fourth floor in the Chicago Cultural Center.

Cox’s brief words on Lightfoot are encouraging, as it wasn’t exactly clear how the mayor would embrace the biennial and the city’s legacy of architecture. The first edition of the biennial launched in 2015 and was part of then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s vision to develop a comprehensive cultural plan.

While Lightfoot’s priorities are different than the previous administration, it appears she views the conversations that happen through the biennial as vital for residents, architects, and city leaders.

“It’s about how architects and designers interact with cities. How those artists and visionaries can be allies with civic leaders and how we use our shared spaces,” Lightfoot said Tuesday morning. “It’s our mission to capture the initiative theme ‘...and such other stories’ which will focus on how architecture and design itself collaborates with culture and histories. There’s no better place to do this than Chicago.”