In addition to the exhibits on display at the Cultural Center and at many other venues across the city, there have been lots of programs for the Architecture Biennial. There are lectures and site tours nearly every day, and I have had the chance to attend two different discussions over the last few weeks: Here Comes the Neighborhood - Placemaking and Transforming Neighborhoods; and Art, Architecture and Community: Catalysts for Social Change.
Here Comes the Neighborhood was a discussion moderated by the curator of the National Museum of Mexican Art. Juan Gabriel Moreno of JGMA and Katherine Darnstadt of Latent Designs “examined the transformation of urban landscapes and the influence of architecture and aesthetics on community and civic life.” I was particularly interested in their discussion of community buy-in for their projects, and fostering a sense of pride.
Art, Architecture and Community was a presentation by Catherine Baker of Landon Bone Baker Architects on her firm’s project of turning former public housing buildings in Greater Grand Crossing into mixed income housing and a community dance center. She talked about the process, from the additional bureaucratic challenges of working with the Chicago Housing Authority to the evolving understanding of the condition of the buildings themselves to the in-depth process of getting community input for the public space. As a part of the Rebuild Foundation’s complex, this project is an interesting example of taking unused property and reusing it for the good of the neighborhood.
These programs have proved that the Architecture Biennial is more than a presentation of beautiful buildings - it’s an evaluation of all the different forms architecture takes, and how the built environment should benefit those who use these spaces.