Past Forward: Architecture and Design at the Art Institute

5 April 2018

REVIEWING THE PAST AND FUTURE OF ARCHITECTURE AND DESIGN IN CHICAGO AND BEYOND

Daniel Burnham and Edward Bennett. Proposed Civic Center Square, Plan of Chicago, 1909.
Daniel Burnham and Edward Bennett. Proposed Civic Center Square, Plan of Chicago, 1909.

The Art Institute of Chicago has always had an interest in modern architecture and design, collecting drawings, furniture, graphic and industrial designs throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. Last fall, they opened a new installation devoted to the museum’s extensive collection, sharing the collection’s breadth while also creating a space that examines how architecture and design is a multilayered, ever-changing experience. As the curators explain, “architects and designers have thought of their work as a speculative, experimental endeavor,” “to propose bold visions for the future”[i].

The entrance to the exhibition, Past Forward, located in the Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago.
The entrance to the exhibition, Past Forward, located in the Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago.

As you enter the gallery space, you are greeted by the most foundational work towards developing the city of Chicago as we know today, drawings from Daniel Burnham and Edward Bennett’s 1909 Plan of Chicago. Through these drawings you begin to understand how these important urban planners addressed the grid system, the idea of a city center and the incorporation of parks and the lakeside as public amenities.

A collection of Bauhaus printed material. The Bauhaus was present in Chicago from 1919-1933.
A collection of Bauhaus printed material. The Bauhaus was present in Chicago from 1919-1933.

From there you can practically travel through time, learning of other important architects’ contributions to the city of Chicago and ideas of architecture. Original publications from the Bauhaus display the European influence that entered the United States post-World War II through luminaries like Mies Van Der Rohe and his radically simple designs for IIT. A model by Studio Gang Architects showcases how contemporary urban planning must continue to contend with natural features of the landscape like bodies of water and that ideas of architecture must continue to evolve with the times.

Studio Gang Architects and Jeanne Gang. Northerly Island Model, 2012.
Studio Gang Architects and Jeanne Gang. Northerly Island Model, 2012.

You can also travel across the globe with a two-channel video installation by Thai design group, All(zone), that tackles issues like affordable housing and increasingly dense populations that are as old as the idea of a metropolis itself. The installation helps the design presentation feel contemporary with two videos being displayed at once or at times one video and a text component which is made to feel slightly autobiographical. The installation includes Light House, a prototypical collapsible house structure made mainly of fabric which is installed in an abandoned Bangkok parking lot, with a design approach that offers a light-hearted look at serious questions architects and designers continue to wrestle with.   

all(zone) and Rachaporn Choochuey. Light House: The Art of Living Lightly, 2015.
all(zone) and Rachaporn Choochuey. Light House: The Art of Living Lightly, 2015.

As 1000M  is poised to change the city’s skyline, it is interesting to explore its architectural precedents along with a host of contemporary ideas that are informing today’s conversation.

// To learn more of architect Helmut Jahn and designer Kara Mann’s visions for 1000M, click here //

// To learn more about the exhibition, visit the Art Institute’s website by clicking here //

 

[i] http://www.artic.edu/exhibition/past-forward-architecture-and-design-art-institute