Diss the Chicago Biennial!

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“One of the ways to make design and architecture more accessible.” (From video trailer produced by the Chicago Architectural Biennial)

Architectural personages have been mulling the Chicago Architectural Biennial. It is the first such extravaganza to be held in the World Capital of Architecture. Chicago is also the Windy City. That comment is an example of “deep structure,” or meta something or other, I think.

Now the personages – in this case mainly deans of architecture schools – are pulling their chins over sharp criticism of the Chicago Biennial by an über personage, actually an über-under personage, Patrik Schumacher. He is the director at Zaha Hadid Architects and (sad to say) teaches at architecture schools around the world. So he is a big cheese.

Here, in a post by the great man, is the essence of his critique:

Contemporary architecture ceased to exist, the discipline’s guilt and bad conscience has sapped its vitality, driven it to self-annihilation and architects have now en masse dedicated themselves to doing good via basic social work.

Schumacher, who is German, has a good point. I wonder how he would track the rationale behind the discipline’s guilt and bad conscience. Might it be connected to the vast reaches of ugliness that “contemporary architecture” has inflicted upon the world? Well, probably not. Perhaps the guilt arises from providing the brand for rapacious “capitalism” now that pirates have freed it from the free market? Nah. Or maybe it is modern architecture’s record of experimentation on the poor, who can’t afford to turn up their noses at the “accommodation” architects pretend to provide. I doubt it. Or maybe architects feel guilty about not feeling guilty for any of this stuff.

Has this guilt sapped architecture’s vitality? Ha! What a joke!

Several of the deans impaneled to express appropriate concern over Patrik Schumacher’s criticism are quoted at length by The Architect’s Newspaper in “Debating Schumacher’s Chicago Biennial Criticism. Shumacher’s post is also quoted in full. The piece, stitched together by AN’s Matt Shaw, is fun if expressions of appropriate concern are your thing. The deans do an adequate job of talking around the issues Schumacher raises. They wonder if he is peed off because he wasn’t invited to address the Chicago Biennial and rivals like Bjarke Ingels were. They compare the Chicago Biennial to the Venice Biannale. The most recent, last year, was criticized by architecture critics who felt blindsided by biannale director Rem Koolhaas’s decision to show a lot of historical architecture, which put a lot of modern architecture on the spot. Since the Chicago Biennial was more about architects expiating their sins than about architecture itself, no worries on that score here.

Here is a trailer for the Chicago Architectural Biennial.

About David Brussat

For a living, I edit the writing of some of the nation's leading architects, urbanists and design theorists. This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. My freelance writing and editing on that topic and others addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts, and a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to invest your prose with even more style and clarity, please email me at my consultancy, dbrussat@gmail.com, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
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3 Responses to Diss the Chicago Biennial!

  1. Pingback: Betsky’s Venice Biennale | Architecture Here and There

  2. Pingback: Schumacher’s Pritzker feint | Architecture Here and There

  3. Pingback: Betsky waxes nostalgic | Architecture Here and There

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