The Living Room of Chicago

The mother-ship of the Chicago Architecture Biennial is the Chicago Cultural Center. At the entrance the design team of Pedro&Juana from Mexico City have created “Randolph Square” which gives a whimsical jolt of light from spherical fixtures; not unlike the old gas sconces that originally lit the space. The lights are conjoined by bright orange rope and a pulley system which is counterbalanced by solid brass weights. Having undergone many transformations since its construction in 1897 as the public library, the choice of a moving light system is brilliant. Visitors are encouraged to pull on the weights and ropes, which gives the space fluidity and a visceral experience for visitors. 

The white, metal mesh furniture, some of which is on rockers, enhances the feeling of lightness and movement of the space. Having designed such an interactive lighting system draws visitors into what was conceived as the “living room of the city”.

The State of the Art of David Adjaye

Alongside the Chicago Architecture Biennial, the Art Institute of Chicago showcased forty-nine year old David Adjaye’s mid-career body of work which includes fifty built projects. Having such a comprehensive look at an architect so young gives the exhibit a vitality and sense of possibility not often found in an architectural retrospective of this scope. Adjaye’s aesthetic is grounded in context. Adjaye strives to convey a sense of place with his designs; rather than showcasing a specific design style. Born in Tanzania to Ghanaian parents, and raised in the Middle East and England; Adjaye’s sensibilities are anything but parochial. As Adjaye’s pavilions and public places are accessible to the people in the surrounding community, so are the ideas behind their design. Rather than imposing an idea on a community through radical design, Adjaye’s designs are emblematic of the surrounding communities which lends context to his modern vision. His designs seek to bridge differences between people in communities struggling with cultural differences. Being the son of a diplomat, having lived in diverse cultures, Adjaye has clearly honed a mastery for reflecting the essence of a community with a welcoming, uplifting, modern aesthetic.  

In addition to models, sketches, floor plans and film clips; his 2007 wood-slat “Horizon” pavilion has been moved and reassembled on the 2nd floor of the Abbott Galleries in the modern section of the Art Institute of Chicago. If you are planning to attend the State of the Art of Architecture: Chicago Architecture Biennial, then you should take the time to experience this wonderful showcase of David Adjaye’s work.


Sarah Thompson inside Adjaye's "Horizon" pavilion.