This Friday marks the launch of the fourth Chicago Architecture Biennale.
Previous editions have been based largely at the Chicago Cultural Center, but this edition focuses on Chicago neighborhoods – and finding creative opportunities to meet the needs of those communities.
The theme of the biennial, “The Available City”, stems from a project artistic director David Brown has been working on for a decade, focusing on vacant lots owned by the city.
“The extent of vacant lots in the city is actually quite large. Currently, there are approximately 13,000 vacant lots owned by the city. It’s about the size of downtown, and it’s mostly in the neighborhoods on the west and south sides, ”said Brown, who is also a professor of architecture at UIC. “It has a huge impact on the feel and character of these neighborhoods … many blocks are almost defined by vacancy.”
The Available City project, says Brown, is intended to create ways “that the earth could actually be a positive element in each of these neighborhoods.”
The 15 biennial venues around town all have community partners – in Englewood, it’s the community organization Grow Greater Englewood, which works on access to locally grown food and making sure the community has its say. to say about the land use of the neighborhood. As part of the biennial, a new Englewood Village Plaza is under construction at 58th St. and Halsted.
“The first (phase) is to build a community table for about 60 people, where we can share and break bread,” said Anton Seals, manager of Grow Greater Englewood. The square will also host markets and farmers’ markets. “This is something that is going to be important, another space that becomes accessible to the community that was once littered with glass. On the other side, we are also developing a community farm. … It is an exciting time. We have been working in this direction for many years.
Tokyo-based architecture firm Atelier Bow-Wow designed the Englewood Village Plaza as part of the biennial. Company co-founder Yoshi Tsukamoto said the goal of the square was to create “better accessibility to local resources for the community.”
“I think it’s very important to rebuild the ‘commons’ today. A common good is a bit difficult nowadays, especially in urban areas and in a very consuming society. But people have (the) capacity to grow things, to share things and to enjoy those experiences and activities together, ”Tsukamoto said. “It will help people get to know each other, collaborate (with each other), and I think architecture projects can really help people achieve that. ”