Chicago Architecture Biennial Announces New Leadership

The Chicago Architecture Biennial is making several announcements today, including the appointments of a new executive director and new artistic directors, as well as a new schedule of events for the contemporary architecture exhibition.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the biennial’s new chairman, told Blair Kamin, the architecture critic at the Chicago Tribune, that the opening of the 2017 biennial has been moved up to September 14, the same day Expo Chicago kicks off. (The 2016 Expo Chicago runs September 22 through 25.) “One plus one is bigger than two,” Emanuel said. “You’re making Chicago at that moment in time a focal point globally around both art and architecture. Having these two events will actually build from each other rather than take from each other.”

The Los Angeles–based architects Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee, a husband-and-wife team, will replace Graham Foundation director Sarah Herda and curator Joseph Grima as the artistic directors.

In an interview with Janelle Zara for, Lee said, “The last biennial was a great success in the way that it not only drew the international architecture crowd, but it formed a dialogue with people who were not architects. We’ve been working in Chicago for the last couple of years on a couple of different projects, and that kind of engagement was important to us.”

While the theme of the upcoming biennial is still in the works, Lee said that it might focus on history and modernity. “We’re interested in the renewed role of history for younger architects, a generation that believes in continuity,” Lee said.

The biennial is also appointing Todd Palmer, associate director of the National Public Housing Museum in Chicago, as the festival’s executive director.