The second Chicago Architectural Biennial and the third Terrain Biennial—along with the Year of Public Art—enliven spaces large and small in Chicago and beyond. They ask questions about perceptions and politics of lived space. They envision new ways for people and art to make and inhabit space.
The Terrain Biennial grew organically from Terrain, the artist-run exhibition space created by Sabina Ott and John Paulett that hosts outdoor art projects at their home in Oak Park, Illinois. Terrain began as a way of using the outdoor space of a private residence, namely the front porch and yard, to create an art-centered community through a year-round program of openings and exhibitions.
The 2017 Terrain Biennial stretches to residential and commercial sites across Illinois, including 31 sites in Oak Park, 21 in Chicago, 17 in Springfield, and 8 sites in Evanston. Further afield, Biennial artists and curators are celebrating their local art communities with sites in Arizona, California, Iowa, Indiana, North Carolina, Sweden, and France.
Unlike the homegrown Terrain Biennial, the Chicago Architectural Biennial is a big-time production that brings leaders in the world of architecture and their creations to Chicago. With the theme “Make New History,” Artistic Directors Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee involve nearly 150 practitioners in a global exploration of contemporary architectural thinking.
The epicenter of the Architectural Biennial is the Chicago Cultural Center. Through a spectacular reimagining of this historic jewel in the city’s public art infrastructure, Artistic Directors Johnston Marklee give visitors visceral experiences of space and time as they move through the building’s monumental and intimate spaces.
The Biennial doesn’t stop with occupying city center. It presents architectural imaginings throughout Chicago via partnerships with cultural institutions and community arts centers. Its schedule of events, too, with panels and performances makes contemporary architecture into a living breathing human endeavor that requires and rewards public attention.