Art Break: Exhibit Uses Architecture in a Pointed Way

Scenic Overlook by Susan Giles.  Courtesy of the Hyde Park Art Center.

Scenic Overlook by Susan Giles. Courtesy of the Hyde Park Art Center.

Next time you’re down in the greater University of Chicago area, stop by the Hyde Park Art Center (5020 South Cornell Avenue) to see what Susan Giles has done with four architectural landmarks.

The Chicago artist has created enormous models of the world’s four tallest observation towers as part of her exhibit Scenic Overlook.  If you’re scratching your brain trying to remember which four towers currently hold the tallest titles, they’re the Tokyo Skytree; the Canton Tower in Guangzhou, China; Toronto’s CN Tower, and the Ostankino Tower in Moscow.  You may remember the Ostankino Tower because it keeps catching fire.

More information in the press release:


CHICAGO—Jackman Goldwasser Resident Artist Susan Giles explores observation and the modern-day megalith in her solo exhibition “Scenic Overlook,” April 19–July 26 at Hyde Park Art Center. Using tower forms as key signifiers of place and identity, “Scenic Overlook” activates the two-story gallery space at the Art Center with four large-scale wooden sculptures that borrow signature architectural features from the four highest observation towers in the world: Tokyo Skytree, Canton Tower, CN Tower and Ostankino Tower. This work advances Giles’ investigation into tourism, architecture and the physicality of place by exploring aerial perspective and the individual’s relationship with these icons.
Aerial perspective has long been identified as a source of visual power. A century ago, the Italian Futurists considered the ability to peer down from a great height upon a city to be both technologically and conceptually revolutionary. Today, cities continue to think vertically, building enormous towers not only to transmit signals for communications media, but as iconic architectural structures to express the city’s progressive status in a global context. Tourists easily recognize these structures, which act as metonymic representations of place while offering stunning panoptic views from their observation decks, simultaneously disconnecting the viewer from the street level.
Giles’ wooden towers, 20 to 25 feet in length, will be mounted horizontally on fabricated steel stands and “aimed” at viewers on the gallery’s catwalk, a permanent feature of the space designed by visionary architect Doug Garofalo. Several small sculptures made of paper and concrete will also be included in the show, dramatically shifting from mammoth to miniature, and challenging the viewer’s feelings in the presence of each building. Inverting the position and scale of these majestic structures provokes the critical examination of the technology and progress they symbolize.
“When we seek to understand something, often we look at it from above—from a bird’s-eye view. In the culmination of her residency, Giles’ work speaks to this human desire to explore, travel and even conquer our surroundings,” said Allison Peters Quinn, Director of Exhibitions and Residency Programs at Hyde Park Art Center. “The impact of and awareness of architecture reverberates throughout this exhibition and Chicago’s history, as well as the Art Center’s, turning our attention towards remodeling and programming the second floor into the Guida Family Creative Wing simultaneously.”
In celebration of “Scenic Overlook” and concurrent exhibitions on view at Hyde Park Art Center, a public reception will be held April 19 from 3–5 pm with a ceremonial groundbreaking ceremony for The Guida Family Creative Wing, a physical home for the Art Center’s expanded programmatic initiatives. The reimagined space will house collaborative workspaces for artists, a flexible learning environment for youth and adults, the Thurow Digital Lab and artists’ studios.

Susan Giles earned a Masters of Fine Art from Northwestern University in 2001 with an emphasis in sculpture and video, and a Masters of Art in Art Education from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1997. She has completed multiple large-scale installations and solo exhibitions across Chicago at The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, The Elmhurst Art Museum, Kavi Gupta Gallery and The Mission Projects, among others. Giles received an award from the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation in 2005 and a Fulbright Full Grant in 1997 to study art and tourism in Indonesia. She also received a Fellowship Award from the Illinois Arts Council in 2009. Giles currently teaches art at DePaul University and lives and works in Chicago.

The Jackman Goldwasser Residency at Hyde Park Art Center positions Chicago as a worldwide destination for visual art by bringing local and global artists together to work side by side, deepening engagement between local, national and international contemporary art practices.

“Scenic Overlook” is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency and the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events for the City of Chicago (DCASE).

Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at

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