At an intimate breakfast at The Modern restaurant in New York City Monday morning, Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel joined curators, artists and architects to announce the participants of the second Chicago Architecture Biennial, an exhibition of more than 100 international architecture firms and artists scheduled for September 16 this year through January 7, 2018.
Intended to inspire discussion about the future of cities worldwide, as well as their role in the current political climate, the Chicago Architecture Biennial had its first iteration in 2015, when it became the largest-ever such international architectural exhibition in North America, hosting participants from 30 countries and more than half a million visitors.
“There’s a major renaissance in cities right now, across the globe and at every level,” Mayor Emanuel told the room Monday morning. And given Chicago’s history as an architectural mecca, he added, it’s essential for that city to be “at the center of that discussion.”
This discussion includes not only architecture, Mayor Emanuel noted, but also design, urban planning and how we pay homage to our past while simultaneously rethinking public spaces and design in a way that benefits an increasingly diverse populace in major cities like Chicago.
“I refer to Chicago as the most American of American cities,” Emanuel said. “It’s the capital of the heartland in America. And what better city to hold a conference such as the Chicago Architecture Biennial, he added, than a city that is home to the first skyscraper, to numerous schools of architecture, and that was the first place to re-imagine the city as a modern metropolis, following the Chicago fire of 1871.
Mayor Emanuel also noted that while this conversation will be ongoing and taking place in cities around the world, Chicago is ideally positioned to serve as its gravitational center. “How do we look to the past, and draw our intellectual energy from that, and then look to the future and work together in rethinking this urban renaissance in a way that makes our cities not just places for great commerce, but for great public life,” he said.
By invoking “great public life,” Mayor Emanuel got as close as needed to addressing the Trump administration’s recent executive actions and rhetoric against immigrants and Muslims, and the radical departure the new president has taken from that of Emanuel’s former boss, Barack Obama, when Emanuel served as White House chief of staff.
“It’s a life that is balanced, and one that embraces the shared goals of tolerance, inclusion and thinking about what public space means in the modern world,” he said.