Chicago Architecture Biennial – “Make New History” in Chicago and at Northwestern University

Fantastic compositions 1929-1931, composition 26,Jean Louis Cohen

When the Chicago Architecture Biennial kicked off Sept. 16, Northwestern University’s strengths in interdisciplinary study, global research and collaboration were on full display.


From a large-scale art installation to lectures by faculty and internationally-renowned guest artists, all programs are focusing on the Biennial’s theme “Make New History.”

Chicago Architecture Biennial, Marion Mahony Avery, Own House

The 2017 Biennial is open to the public and on view through Jan. 7, 2018. A wide range of performances, talks, forums and film screenings will be held at various location throughout the Chicago area, including the Northwestern Evanston campus. A full calendar of events is available on the Chicago Architecture Biennial website.



The Biennial theme resonates strongly for Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, professor of art theory and practice at Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.

Inigo Manglano Ovalle 2017

“Making new history is a cultural practice that involves more than the artist or the architect. It is a social movement driven by hopes and fears of citizens, wherein one either defends history as memorial or critiques the context of that commemoration. Much is at stake here. You have only to consider the recent events centering around a bronze statue in Charlottesville,” Manglano-Ovalle said.


A specialist on architectural intervention, Manglano-Ovalle was invited to present a large-scale sculptural installation at the Chicago Cultural Center. His work investigates how extraordinary forces and systems, both natural and man-made, perpetually reshape our world and challenge our notions of the political and the cultural.

Jesús Escobar by Eileen Molony

Jesús Escobar, Harold H. and Virginia Anderson Chair, Department of Art History says it is important that Northwestern participates in the Biennial as a leading cultural player in Chicago.


“We have a tradition of architectural historians on the faculty who have contributed significant scholarship on the built environment of Chicago and the impact of Chicago design in the U.S. and beyond. Northwestern architectural historians also write about cities across time and the urban experience, which is an important theme for the Biennial,” Escobar said.

Prototype for Re-entry2014, Inigo Manglano Ovalle, Photo: Christopher Grimes

The Department of Art History will present a lecture by Jean-Louis Cohen, a history of architecture professor at NYU, as part of the department’s Elizabeth and Todd Warnock Lecture Series.



The Block Museum of Art is the venue for Cohen’s lecture as well as an Architecture Biennial lecture from Mexican contemporary artist and architectural innovator Abraham Cruzvillegas, who draws inspiration from the improvised building materials and techniques of Latin America. Cruzvillegas will discuss his series “The Water Trilogy,” focusing on urban water shortages. The lecture is co-presented by the Block Museum of Art, the Department of Art Theory and Practice and the McCormick School of Engineering.

Abraham Cruzvillegas

“Architecture is by its very nature interdisciplinary, encompassing art and design, material and environmental sciences, sociology and psychology. The Chicago Architecture Biennial is a perfect vehicle for Northwestern’s own commitment to teaching and learning across fields of study and will be a marvelous resource for our faculty and students taking this ‘Northwestern Direction,’ said Lisa Corrin, Ellen Philips Katz Director, Block Museum of Art.

David VanZanten

David Van Zanten will speak at two Biennial events. The Mary Jane Crowe Professor in Art and Art History at Northwestern recently participated in a panel discussion on Chicago’s Picasso moderated by Patricia Stratton, Northwestern alumna and author of “The Chicago Picasso: A Point of Departure.”


The following Biennial events will be hosted by or feature Northwestern architectural experts:

Northwestern Biennial Events:

“SOM: Engineering x [Art + Architecture]”  
Sept. 10, 2017 through Jan. 7, 2018
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP and Mana Contemporary Chicago, 345 N. Morgan Street, Chicago

Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, Weinberg College professor of art theory and practice will be featured in an exhibition that explores the idea that engineers, architects and artists alike practice a poetry of inquiry, experimentation and ingenuity.

The exhibition includes hand-drawn sketches, interactive sculpture, immersive video and a lineup of more than 30 structural models at 1:500 scale. More information is available on the Chicago Architecture Biennial website.

Conversation with Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle and Hannah Higgins
Oct. 3, 6:30 p.m.
Chicago Cultural Center, Claudia Cassidy Theater, 77 E. Randolph Street, Chicago

Art historian Hannah B Higgins, author of “The Grid Book” (MIT Press, 2009), and MacArthur Award-winning artist Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle discuss the use and implications of the grid in Manglano-Ovalle’s practice and among related artists. Online reservations are requested.

Lecture on Chicago architect Marion Mahony  
Oct. 23, 6 p.m.
Perkins + Will Chicago office, 410 N. Michigan Avenue, Chicago

David Van Zanten, professor of art history in Weinberg College will deliver a presentation on Chicago architect Marion Mahony, sponsored by the Beverly Willis Foundation, a New York philanthropy organization that supports women in architecture.  Admission is $40 and includes dinner and drinks.

More information is available on the Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation website.

Chicago Architecture Biennial lecture with Abraham Cruzvillegas
Oct. 25, 6 – 7:30 p.m.
Block Museum of Art, 40 Arts Circle Drive, Evanston, Illinois

Cruzvillegas, one of the top conceptual artists of his generation to come out of the vibrant art and architecture scene of Mexico, will speak about a new series of work “The Water Trilogy.” Online reservations are requested.

Presented by the Block Museum of Art, McCormick School of Engineering and the Department of Art Theory and Practice.

Department of Art History Elizabeth and Todd Warnock Lecture Series: Jean-Louis Cohen
Nov. 1, 5 – 7 p.m.
Block Museum of Art, 40 Arts Circle Drive, Evanston, Illinois

Jean-Louis Cohen, the Sheldon H. Solow Professor in the History of Architecture at the Institute of Fine Arts at NYU, will speak on “Building a new New World: Amerikanizm in Russian Architecture.”

More information is available on the Arts Circle website.

Illinois Institute of Technology College of Architecture Symposium  
Nov. 17, 6:30 p.m.
Nov. 18, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Illinois Institute of Technology, 3300 S. Federal Street, Chicago

David Van Zanten will chair the Nov. 18 presentation session from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. at the second International Graduate School Symposium hosted by the IIT College of Architecture Ph.D. program. Full schedule and registration information is available on the IIT College of Architecture website.

About the Chicago Architecture Biennial
The Chicago Architecture Biennial provides a platform for groundbreaking architectural projects and spatial experiments that demonstrate how creativity and innovation can radically transform the lived experience. Through its constellation of exhibitions, full-scale installations and programming, the Biennial invites the public 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 field.

Photos: Courtesy of The Chicago Architecture Biennial and Northwestern University unless otherwise noted.



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