Biennial puts spotlight on Chicago's architecture

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel wants the world recognize the architecture of Chicago. He also wants you to know that the city's financial problems will not tarnish Chicago's skyline.

City Hall is excited about architects from around the world converging on Chicago for the profession's biennial.

The 118-year-old Chicago Cultural Center - the one-time library counted among the city's many masterpieces - is being transformed to celebrate early 21st century architecture.

"It's a chance for people in the architectural community and for everyday Chicagoans to see what's going on in the world of building-making," said Douglas Pancoast, architect.

The three-month-long biennial on the state of the art of architecture is the first of its kind in North America since such events began in the mid-1980s.

"Huge deal. Not just for the city of Chicago but even for North America," said Michelle Boone, Chicago Dept. of Special Events.

"It's a perfect juxtaposition of this city's architectural strengths and convening the world," said Ty Tabing, Chicago Architectural Biennial.

From its dramatic reconstruction after the great fire to its present-day iconic skyline, Chicago has an international reputation for being on the cutting edge of architecture.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel - who expects the biennial to attract many thousands of autumn tourists to the city - says Chicago's fiscal issues have not tarnished its attractiveness.

"The biggest conversation going around the world right now is not just architecture but urban planning and design as people move back into cities," Emanuel said. "And I wanted Chicago dead center on that conversation."

Work crews are building full-sized houses - that could be built in other countries -inside the cultural center. The exhibits also will include building prototypes, the concept cars of architecture.

"If you want to see new materials, new ideas, new technologies that you're probably going to find in your built environment in 10 or 15 years, you can see it now, here," Pancoast said.

The biennial begins this Saturday and continues until January 3rd at the Chicago Cultural Center and various off-site locations.

Unlike in other host cities around the world, admission to the Chicago Cultural Center will be free of charge.

2015 Chicago Architecture Biennial
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