Chicagoisms: More Than “Over By Dere” And “Da Bearz”

Chicagoisms art exhibit

The Windy City lays claim to many firsts. Deep dish pizza. The electric dishwasher. The zipper. Architecturally speaking, the list is even longer. A clever take on the architectural thought leadership and approaches Chicago is known for is now on display at the Art Institute of Chicago.

A new exhibit—“Chicagoisms”—shows how architectural innovations born here influenced design and construction all over the world.

Chicagoisms art exhibitThe Art Institute’s clever curators use three-dimensional sculptures hanging from the wall to look at current approaches to key historical principles that grew out of Chicago. These five “Chicagoisms” are the heart of the exhibit, with examples of how to use those concepts developed by nine teams of contemporary architects.

Chicago was never afraid to try something new and different. Take, for example, the skyscraper. So commonplace are they now, from New York City to Dubai, but the concept, and first application, came from Chicago.

Chicagoisms art exhibitThinking differently wasn’t always about designing a building. Another example, straight from Chicago, was the idea of reversing the flow of a river. Audacious, perhaps, but it helped save the city’s water supply from catastrophe in 1885.

Architectural theorist Alexander Eisenschmidt and art historian Jonathan Mekinda used these ideas as the starting point for their recently-published “Chicagoisms: The City as Catalyst for Architectural Speculation.”

“Chicagoisms” is located in the pocket-sized Gallery 286 on the second floor of the modern wing. It runs through January 4, 2015.

Chicagoisms art exhibit

Author: Bill Motchan

Bill Motchan is a writer and photographer, and a former resident of the West Loop. He can be reached at

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