View of “Vertical City,” 2017, Chicago Cultural Center. Photo: Steve Hall.

the Chicago Architecture Biennial

Chicago Cultural Center

View of “Vertical City,” 2017, Chicago Cultural Center. Photo: Steve Hall.

IN THE MIDDLE OF THE LOCAL Fox affiliate’s morning show, Good Day Chicago, right between the segment introducing the “Furry Friend of the Week” and the forecast with Bill the weatherman, viewers throughout Northern Illinois were recently treated to a brief story on the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial. Over some B-roll of the lakeshore skyline, the host declared that the second installment of the omnibus design festival, open now at the city’s Cultural Center, was called “Make New History.” For just the briefest instant, the presenter appeared to puzzle at the name, as if he were punctuating it with a tiny question mark.

How much of the Chicagoland audience, one wonders, caught the whiff of subversion in that title? Selected (in a riff on a 2009 Ed Ruscha piece of the same title) by curators Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee of the Los Angeles–based firm Johnston Marklee, the exhibition’s

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