As the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial prepares to open its doors, curators Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee (Johnston Marklee) introduce Make New History – the theme of the second edition of North America’s largest architecture and design exhibition.
Understanding the trace of history is more important than ever. Maybe now it’s a good time to take stock and reevaluate to see what architecture could do better, and there are certain issues that other disciplines address better than architecture itself.
Make New History / Johnston Marklee
Making new history is a form of contemporary practice. Although architecture has almost always learned from what came before, today we see an increased awareness in practices that cross the institutional strictures of style, period, and generations to move beyond the traditional linear historical narrative. Despite this seemingly smooth horizon of information, there is great diversity in the ways and means architects approach and rede ne the past: from increasingly visible practices of referencing and resampling in image making, to reassembly of as-found and original materials, to the site-speci c practices that engage with existing buildings in unexpected ways. These paths all foreground historical narratives, forms, and objects—yet, their reconstitution is utterly contemporary.
An important aspect of this visibility of historical reference is the proliferation of exhibition formats—of which this biennial is one new platform—that bring architecture increasingly into dialogue with art practices and new audiences, and which often require di erent ways of working relative to the traditional production of buildings. The Chicago Architecture Biennial features collaborative projects by artists and architects that attest to the shifting dynamic between our two elds.
More than 140 participants were invited to consider the importance of historical material to their practice. Out of the diversity of responses a series of topics emerged: building histories where a single building stands alone as a marker of time or as part of a typological collection of architecture; material histories that explore the contemporary ways that artists and architects approach nish, decoration, and language in matter today; image histories that re ect the ways in which software and digital tools have in uenced the representational tool set; and civic histories that pose questions of collectivity, in settings from the individual room and the workshop to the city.