2015 Chicago Architecture Biennial: anonymous histories
Exhibition during the 2015 Chicago Architecture Biennial: The State of the Art of Architecture
In this series, Baan treats the city of Chicago as a living, breathing entity. He was informed and influenced by Alvin Boyarsky’s collection of postcards of Chicago, mainly those presented in the 1970’s essay, Chicago a la Carte: The City as an Energy System. Addressing such themes as architecture, tourism, urban geography, industry, development and spectatorship, Baan revisits many of the sights and attractions that Boyarsky included in his essay.
Boyarsky writes that postcards revealed a miscellany of topographical information, the taste and sensibility of a period as well as a certain unconscious, regional pride. He commented that at times, they oozed with self-caricature, reflecting what was thought to be of interest to visitors, ultimately contributing to the process of city, region or nation branding.
Boyarsky’s concept of the city as an organism emerged during the 1960’s as a response to the increasingly complex interconnections of technology, communication, and history. He drew on his archive of historical postcards, newspaper clippings, and printed ephemera to trace a hidden history of Chicago’s built environment.
Much of his postcard collection represents Chicago’s tangible miracles of contemporary life. His collection displayed audacious feats of engineering of the industrial revolution such as grain elevators, slaughterhouses, bridges, canals and airports. Through them, Chicago was seen as a symbol of change and progress.
Sarah Herda for allowing us to pick her brain to uncover some great sites to photograph, and for the invitation to participate in the biennale.
Irene Sunwoo for sharing so generously her brilliant research, Alvin Boyarsky’s ‘Well-Laid Table’: Experiments in Architectural Pedagogy.
Matthew Messner for being the best tour guide, ever. And for sharing his love and knowledge of Chicago and surrounding area.
Jessica Collins for her research, writing and rediscovering these places with me.
Additional research was drawn from: Igor Marjanovic’s Postcards and the Making of Architectural History: The Cases of Alvin Boyarsky and Rem Koolhaas
See the related exhibition