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Exhibition at Art Institute of Chicago examines the city's architectural legacy and future potential
Installation view of Chicagoisms at the Art Institute of Chicago, April 5, 2014–January 4, 2015.
CHICAGO, IL.- The Ferris wheel at the Columbian Exposition of 1893. The reversal of the Chicago River. The construction of the Circle Interchange. With the city of Chicago widely recognized for its far-reaching, influential, and often radical contributions to the development of the modern city, the department of Architecture and Design at the Art Institute of Chicago opened a new exhibition entitled Chicagoisms. It runs from April 5 through Jan. 4, 2015 in the Kurokawa Gallery (G286) in the museum’s Modern Wing.

As part of a series in which the department of Architecture and Design enlists contemporary architects and designers to organize installations that investigate critical issues within their practices, Chicagoisms explores the rich architectural and urban history of Chicago by identifying five fundamental principles that powered the city’s distinctive evolution.

Architectural theorist Alexander Eisenschmidt and art historian Jonathan Mekinda have extrapolated key ideas for the exhibition from their recent publication, Chicagoisms: The City As Catalyst for Architectural Speculation. Along with designer Matt Wizinsky, the team enlisted nine contemporary architects to undertake their own investigations and interpretations of five “Chicagoisms”: Vision Shapes History, Optimism Trumps Planning, Ambition Overcomes Nature, Technology Makes Spectacle, and Crisis Provokes Innovation.

The nine contemporary architects–Bureau Spectacular, DOGMA, MVDRV, Organization for Permanent Modernity, PORT, Sam Jacob, UrbanLab, Weathers, and WW–have created architectural models with corresponding manifestos specifically for this exhibition that are emblematic of the five Chicagoisms. These models and manifestos enliven urban principles rooted in Chicago with a contemporary voice and a global perspective. Each exploration is juxtaposed with historical blackand-white photographs mined from the Chicago History Museum.

For exhibition organizers Eisenschmidt and Mekinda, Chicago bears little of the restlessness and ambition to imagine new urban conditions that made it one of the earliest and most vital examples of the modern metropolis. They have developed this exhibition with the aim to revive Chicago’s constructive potential and spark a renewed boldness to engage the city today.

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