Chicago Architecture Biennial Coming Back for a Second Year


Over the decades, many Chicago events have come and gone — The New Year’s Eve countdown at Daley Plaza. Swimming races in the Chicago River.  Third of July fireworks in Grant Park.  But one of the city’s more recent events is continuing for a second edition: The Chicago Architecture Biennial.

The Windy City’s Biennial made its debut last year, and saw entries from more than a hundred different architects from around the world.  Moreover, the event had an estimated half-million visitors in its inaugural season.

Today, Mayor Rahm Emanuel helped announce that the event will be back for a 2017 season, during which it will explore the balance that architecture strikes between art and architecture; and also how it walks the line from history to modernity.  Hizzonor also introduced the new heads of the biennial: Todd Palmer of the National Public Housing Museum is the new Executive Director, while Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee of  Johnston Marklee are the Artistic Directors.

The event runs from September 16, 2017 through the end of the year.

Details in the press release below.

CHICAGO – The Chicago Architecture Biennial (CAB) and Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced today new leadership, funding, and dates for the second edition of the Biennial, to take place September 16–December 31, 2017. Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee of the Los Angeles–based firm Johnston Marklee, which participated in the inaugural Biennial, have been named Artistic Directors for the 2017 edition. Also joining the CAB team is Todd Palmer, the newly appointed Executive Director, who comes to the Biennial from the National Public Housing Museum. He will be working alongside the CAB board to establish the Biennial as a world-­class cultural attraction for the city.

The Chicago Architecture Biennial and the City of Chicago are also pleased to announce that SC Johnson has renewed its support of the Biennial and will return as the Presenting Sponsor, with a $2.5 million leadership commitment. BP, the Founding Sponsor, has also renewed its support, with a $1 million commitment.

“SC Johnson is proud to return to the Chicago Architecture Biennial as the Presenting Sponsor,” said Fisk Johnson, Chairman and CEO of SC Johnson. “Architecture is more than just buildings; these structures can inspire and motivate people to do great things. The Frank Lloyd Wright buildings at our international headquarters in Racine serve as constant reminders of our legacy of bold decisions and making life better for the next generation. We’re thrilled to again share our architectural treasures on this international stage.”

“One of the reasons we support this architectural showcase is that it links the work we do in science, technology, engineering and math with the beauty and ingenuity associated with the architecture in Chicago,” said Doug Sparkman, Chief Operating Officer of BP Fuels North America. “This city is known for the uniqueness of its architecture and since BP is an integral part of Chicago, this is a fantastic way for us to continue supporting the city’s rich cultural heritage and continued growth.”

This will be the second edition of the Chicago Architecture Biennial, which premiered in 2015 and was envisioned by Mayor Emanuel. The inaugural Biennial was unprecedented: the first and largest international exhibition of contemporary architecture ever to have taken place in North America, it featured the visionary ideas of 120 participating architecture and design offices from more than 30 countries. More than half a million Chicago residents and visitors from abroad took part.

“The Chicago Architecture Biennial’s return in 2017 confirms Chicago as an architectural hub,” said Mayor Emanuel. “Last year’s edition was a resounding success, and I’m pleased to see the great planning and support for the second Biennial, which will be even better. Not only is the Biennial’s return a testament to our city’s architectural significance, but it speaks to Chicago’s place as one of the world’s cultural destinations and our place in the world of architecture and design.”

BP and SC Johnson’s support alongside the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events provides a strong foundation for the event’s return in 2017. The Chicago Architecture Biennial board is chaired by Jack Guthman. Board members include Graham Foundation Director Sarah Herda and Ambassador Louis Susman.

The 2017 Biennial will be open to the public and on view from September 16 through December 31, 2017. Press and professional previews will take place September 14 and 15. The opening of the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial will align with the sixth annual EXPO CHICAGO, the International Exposition of Contemporary and Modern Art, which will run September 13–17 at Navy Pier. The hub of the 2017 Biennial will once again be the Chicago Cultural Center, located in downtown Chicago.

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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