After months of hype, contests and press conferences (did you see the trailer?), the inaugural Chicago Architecture Biennial will officially kick off on October 3. While the city's own legacy of architectural innovation, as well as the organizer's inclusion of practitioners and designers from around the globe, means the event will live up to its high-minded theme, State of the Art of Architecture, there are also literally hundreds of events happening throughout the city that are open to the public, accessible and often free (some programming has already begun). We've compiled the events and exhibitions we're most excited about, including off-site events and tours, to give guests and Chicagoans alike a means to sort through the array of events happening over the next few months, and will add more in the run-up to the big event (we've included a map to help guests navigate between venues).
While we're only slightly biased, we'd also suggest any visitors make time for Chicago's incredible food scene: Eater Chicago has suggestions on the best new restaurants, bars and brunch spots for out-of-towners to explore.
LECTURES AND SPECIAL EVENTS:
Chicago Architecture 101: World War II-Present Series (Chicago Architecture Foundation, 6 p.m.)
If there's an organization that the architecturally minded Chicago tourist may be familiar with, it's the Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF), known for the exemplary River Cruise of Loop architecture that's become a visitor's staple that even locals (in many cases, especially local) still enjoy. For this Monday lecture series starting on September 14th and running through October 5, the scholarly staff will give attendees a deeper dive into how Chicago became a center for modern architecture, both in terms of projects built and talent in town. The series costs $125 for the public ($125 for CAF member).
International Perspective: Chicago and the Future of Urban Change (Art Institute: 5 p.m.)
While one of the Biennial's big draws is bringing the globe to Chicago, it also manages to present Chicago and its unique urban landscape in interesting ways. Going beyond the skyscrapers and buildings the city is rightfully known for, this loaded panel, including architects from Snohetta, BIG and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, as well as scholars and curators such as Zoe Ryan of the Art Institute, debate and discuss the future of Chicago.
Post-Modern Architecture: Presevation's New Frontier (Chicago Cultural Center, 12:30 p.m.)
The curious progression of building trends often means that yesterday's kitsch can often become today's threatened masterpiece. This panel will use Chicago's postmodern legacy as a case study to examine how different cities are approaching the challenge of preservation, and how shifting viewpoints have caused many to reappraise these unique structures.
Night of Illumination Opening Night (Stony Island Art Bank: 5:00 p.m.)
Theaster Gates has become an international art star for his creative vision for community building, but his Chicago roots are still central to his work. The opening of the 17,000-square-foot Stony Island Arts Bank, one of his largest projects to date, shows him working on an ever-larger canvas. The extensive art space and media center features an array of renovated spaces as well as artifacts unique to the city, including the record collection of DJ Frankie Knuckles.
Architecture Is Art... Is Architecture Art? Atelier Bow-Wow
This experimental Japanese architecture duo has a name, and playful body of work, that suggests this lecture will be anything but stuffy and self involved. Many designers aim for a light touch and natural aesthetic, but it says quite a bit about the way this group things that they once told an interviewer they aspire to create "architecture without the architect."
Kunle Adeyemi Lecture (The Art Institute: October 5)
The principal of NLE, Nigerian architect Kunle Adeyemi has already produced one of the more impressive designs of the Biennial, a cantilevered entry for the Lakefront Kiosk competition that would add a striking site to the shoreline. But it's no surprise based on his previous inventive work, especially the floating Makoko School concept for Lagos. Look for a discussion of rapid growth and urbanism, along with thoughtful insights into modifying how we think about designing cities.
Precise Poetry: Lina Bo Bardi's Architecture (35 East Wacker Drive, 5:30 p.m.)
In its North American debut, this documentary examines the work of the Italian-Brazilian architect via her designs in Sao Paulo and Salvador de Bahia.
Pritzker Laureate Lecture: Thom Mayne (Art Instiute of Chicago, 6 p.m.)
The Los Angeles-based architect, teacher and principal of Morphosis discusses his career and the state of modern architecture.
Art + Architecture: Inspiration Amplified (Farnwsworth House, 3 p.m.)
Nothing says refined contemplation like a glass home. Take the aesthetic appreciation one step further with a concert at the Farnsworth Home in suburban Plano, featuring contemporary classical performer Mary Ellen Childs. Additional performances take place November 15 and December 12.
Mies Crown Hall America Prize Lecture by Jacques Herzog (IIT College of Architecture: 6:00 p.m.)
One of the principal's of Herzog & de Meuron, the prize-winning Swiss firm behind the design of many renowned stadiums and museums, will discuss public architecture in one of Chicago's most iconic academic spaces, Crown Hall.
ONGOING SHOWS AND EXHIBITIONS:
Making Place: The Architecture of David Adjaye (Art Institute: Through January 13)
While rumors swirl around whether or not this talented Tanzanian-English architect will be the first foreign architect chosen to design a presidential library, Chicago can at least get a little more comfortable with his style via this career-spanning exhibition. Designed by Adjaye himself, the installation provides the first major retrospective of the now-established international talent.
Solarise: A Sea of All Colors (Garfield Park Conservatory: Through January 3)
Last fall, Chicago artistic duo Luftwerk turned the iconic Farnsworth House into a thrilling light show that explored ideas of space and shadow. Their latest work, which coincides with the Biennial, transforms the sprawling Garfield Park Conservatory, a cold-weather refuge for Chicagoans, into a light-filled playground.
Richard Meier: Process and Vision (2223 South Thropp Street: Through January 30)
The Pritzker winner has made a career out of designing stunning white structures, such as the Smith House and Getty Center, but this retrospective collection offers a look at Meier's stylistic evolution.
Lessons From Modernism: Environmental Design Strategies in Architecture 1925-1970 (Elmhurst College: Through November 29)
While seeing this exhibit at the suburban college is a bit of a drive, it's worth it. The celebrated show, first staged at Cooper Union, examines how nature and the environment influence architecture, using the work of exemplary architects such as Le Corbusier, Jean Prouvé and Oscar Niemeyer as case studies.
A Historic Architecture Tour of the University of Chicago Campus ( University of Chicago Bookstore: Noon)
While the White City and museum campus often get all the attention when it comes discussing the city's more classical architecture, the University of Chicago in Hyde Park offers an incredible display of Gothic design on the South Side. Fall is a particularly apt time to tour the tree-strewn quad.
Chicago School Skyscrapers on South Dearborn Street (Monadnock Building, 5:30 p.m.)
Sometimes, all you want is the classics. Beginning at the iron-and-brick structure many consider the first skyscraper, this short tour explores some of the creations of Burnham, Root, Holabird and Roche that kickstarted the modern craze for bigger and better buildings.
Wright Now: Tour SC Johnson's Campus (Chicago Cultural Center, 10 a.m.)
Frank Lloyd Wright made his name with daring residential commissions, but this opportunity to tour the SC Johnson Office in nearby Racine, Wisconsin, offers attendees a chance to see him work on a large scale. The round-trip bus ride and tour, which returns at 6:30 p.m., includes stops at Wingspread, one of Wright's largest homes. The tours are available every Saturday and Sunday through January 3.
Open House Chicago (Various locations and times)
The Chicago Architectural Foundation's massive citywide weekend of open house tours insider access, offering unique insights about homes and buildings normally hidden behind closed doors.