“What distinguishes this Biennial from earlier editions is its insistence on a social agenda in a city where, as artistic director and architectural scholar David Brown contends, ‘current and past inequities are made clear through the urban landscape in this stark contrast between development and underdevelopment, investment and disinvestment.’”
— Guest editors Kekeli Sumah and F. Philip Barash, from their introduction, “The Geography of Emptiness.”
We are so fortunate in Chicago to have front-row seats to an undertaking as ambitious as a biennial. One of the greatest attributes of a global forum like this is in the blending of voices and perspectives, as our local thought leaders trade ideas with their counterparts from around the world. I am writing this letter, not from Chicago, but from the Usina de Arte in northeast Pernambuco, Brazil, where I am attending the dedication of a new installation by the São Paulo-based artist Denise Milan.
The Usina de Arte speaks perfectly to the theme of the 2021 Chicago Architecture Biennial. A dormant factory that once employed thousands as one of the largest sugar producers in Brazil, the husband-and-wife owners, Ricardo and Bruna Pessoa de Querioz, have reoccupied the factory grounds and are converting it into a world-class sculpture park set in a lush botanical garden. Central to their project is a commitment to offer music lessons, to teach forms of “making” and entrepreneurship and to offer a public library and ongoing educational services to the community that surrounds it. The factory, which lends the property its name as well as its visual identity, sits near that park, an industrial ruin that acknowledges the history of the site while signaling the potential of the future. A future that connects history with community, art with nature. It’s the kind of transformative vision that we might adapt in Chicago, perhaps on the South Side, where empty land, abandoned industrial buildings and an underserved community might similarly thrive. This is the kind of imagination that this year’s biennial intends to spark.
The Chicago Architecture Biennial, founded eight years ago with a robust charter for discourse, gets better with every iteration. This year’s edition has the greatest promise of them all, with its mandate to go beyond conversation and into action. We are fortunate this year to put forth our best CAB special edition as well, under the very capable leadership of guest editors Kekeli Sumah and F. Philip Barash. They’ve assembled a vital mix of stories and images that serve as both companion and extension of this year’s activities.
Look for Newcity’s October 2021 print edition at over 300 Chicago-area locations this week or subscribe to the print edition at Newcityshop.com.
IN THIS ISSUE
Richard Hunt Memorializes Ida B. Wells’ Activism in Chicago
The Geography of Emptiness
Newcity Explores the 2021 Chicago Architecture Biennial
Welcome to “The Available City”: What To Know And Where To Go For the 2021 Chicago Architecture Biennial
What is Available? Seeing 125 Million Square Feet of Chicago
A Shot in the Arm: Temporary Interventions Can Be Long-Term Investments In Neighborhoods
Robot Ballet and Urban Scale Paintings: Outpost Office See Midwestern Landscapes as Both Resource and Inspiration
The Future Is Shared: Restitution and Reparations in Englewood
Rising From the Earth: Soil Lab Uncovers Layers of Chicago Histories
Altgeld’s Tactical Gardens: Lessons to Learn from People for Community Recovery
Is There a Hippocratic Oath for Architects?
Against the Biennial Industrial Complex: “The Available City” Is Chicago’s Anti-Biennial
Be careful what you lie about.
And so much more…