Underneath the sparkling Tiffany Dome of the Chicago Cultural Center this morning, organizers for the Chicago Architecture Biennial announced the initial participants for the inaugural gathering, set to begin October 3. As speakers including architect Jeanne Gang and Mayor Rahm Emanuel discussed the significance of the event, co-artistic directors Sarah Herda and Joseph Grima introduced roughly a dozen of the 63 architects and studios participating, ranging from London’s Assemble, pioneers of pop-up architecture, and NLE, the Lagos-based studio that built the Makoko Floating School, to Tokyo-based Atelier Bow-Wow, famous for putting an amusement park atop an Austrian department store. All in all, it’s an eclectic list of talent from more than 25 countries.

Herda, Director of the Graham Foundation, says the organizers didn’t intentionally choose a theme when sorting through hundreds of potential participants, but rather focused on architects and designers who were pushing the boundaries and addressing important issues. They’re discovered that many architects have been wrestling with the same ideas.

“This isn’t just for architects,” she says. “It’s for everyone who interacts with architecture.”

Vietnamese studio Vo Trong Nghia’s pavilion design for the Milan Expo, inspired by the lotus.
Herda also spoke of the scope of the Biennial, which will be the first event ever to take over the entire Chicago Cultural Center and feature a number of events and exhibitions, including the opening of Theaster Gates’ Stony Island Arts Bank and a set of proposals from local architects reimagining the Chicago region, curated by Iker Gil. Concurrent happenings in the city in October, such as the Art Institute’s David Adjaye exhibit, that will make fall in Chicago even more of a multi-faceted conversation. The event, funded by private donations, also picked up a $1 million donation from regional sponsor SC Johnson.

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