The Biennial Will Go On

John Hill
22. October 2020
The Chicago Cultural Center during the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial (Photo: John Hill/World-Architcts)

After speculation as to if the 2021 edition of the Chicago Architecture Biennial would happen, the Biennial has announced a new format and artistic director for its fourth edition.

The coronavirus pandemic has forced every institution to adapt. To wit, the Venice Architecture Biennial moved its 2020 iteration forward twelve months, to a May 2021 opening. Given that the Chicago Architecture Biennial launched in 2015 to alternate every other year with the Biennale in Venice, Chicagoans started to wonder if its hometown Biennial would take place in 2021 — if at all.

Yesterday, the Chicago Architecture Biennial put any doubts to rest with the announcement of its 2021 edition, The Available City, to be directed by designer and educator David Brown. It will open in September 2021. The theme takes its name from Brown's long-term research project that explores uses for the more than 10,000 city-owned vacant lots in Chicago. Brown presented The Available City in the inaugural Biennial, and three years before that he presented an iteration at the Venice Architecture Biennale.

Per a press release from the Biennial, " For the 2021 edition, Brown will explore the framework of The Available City on a global platform, engaging both local and international projects and practices that reflect new concepts for shared space and collective agency in the city." Although it is less than a year until the Biennial's opening, it's still too early for a list of participating architects, artists, and designers to be available, much less determined.

With the pandemic clearly on everyone's minds, what will be the venue for next year's event? Will it be held at the Chicago Cultural Center, the formidable city-owned building that hosted the first three iterations? Per the press release, the 2021 Beinnial will feature "free, public programming at sites in neighborhoods across Chicago and on digital platforms." "Because of the uncertainty posed by the pandemic," writes Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin, "fewer exhibits may be shown at the Chicago Cultural Center."

It sounds like the fourth edition of the Chicago Architecture Biennial will be an invitation for visitors and residents alike to explore the many neighborhoods that lie well beyond the Loop and make up the character of Chicago.

David Brown (Photo: Nathan Keay)

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