The Chicago Architecture Biennial (CAB) and Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced today new leadership, funding, and dates for the second edition of the Biennial, to take place September 16–December 31, 2017. Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee of the Los Angeles–based firm Johnston Marklee, which participated in the inaugural Biennial, have been named Artistic Directors for the 2017 edition. Also joining the CAB team is Todd Palmer, the newly appointed Executive Director, who comes to the Biennial from the National Public Housing Museum. He will be working alongside the CAB board to establish the Biennial as a world-­class cultural attraction for the city.

The Chicago Architecture Biennial and the City of Chicago are also pleased to announce that SC Johnson has renewed its support of the Biennial and will return as the Presenting Sponsor, with a $2.5 million leadership commitment. BP, the Founding Sponsor, has also renewed its support, with a $1 million commitment.

“SC Johnson is proud to return to the Chicago Architecture Biennial as the Presenting Sponsor,” said Fisk Johnson, Chairman and CEO of SC Johnson. “Architecture is more than just buildings; these structures can inspire and motivate people to do great things. The Frank Lloyd Wright buildings at our international headquarters in Racine serve as constant reminders of our legacy of bold decisions and making life better for the next generation. We’re thrilled to again share our architectural treasures on this international stage.”

"One of the reasons we support this architectural showcase is that it links the work we do in science, technology, engineering and math with the beauty and ingenuity associated with the architecture in Chicago," said Doug Sparkman, Chief Operating Officer of BP Fuels North America. "This city is known for the uniqueness of its architecture and since BP is an integral part of Chicago, this is a fantastic way for us to continue supporting the city’s rich cultural heritage and continued growth.”

This will be the second edition of the Chicago Architecture Biennial, which premiered in 2015 and was envisioned by Mayor Emanuel. The inaugural Biennial was unprecedented: the first and largest international exhibition of contemporary architecture ever to have taken place in North America, it featured the visionary ideas of 120 participating architecture and design offices from more than 30 countries. More than half a million Chicago residents and visitors from abroad took part.

“The Chicago Architecture Biennial’s return in 2017 confirms Chicago as an architectural hub,” said Mayor Emanuel. “Last year’s edition was a resounding success, and I’m pleased to see the great planning and support for the second Biennial, which will be even better. Not only is the Biennial’s return a testament to our city’s architectural significance, but it speaks to Chicago’s place as one of the world’s cultural destinations and our place in the world of architecture and design.”

BP and SC Johnson’s support alongside the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events provides a strong foundation for the event’s return in 2017. The Chicago Architecture Biennial board is chaired by Jack Guthman. Board members include Graham Foundation Director Sarah Herda and Ambassador Louis Susman.

The 2017 Biennial will be open to the public and on view from September 16 through December 31, 2017. Press and professional previews will take place September 14 and 15. The opening of the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial will align with the sixth annual EXPO CHICAGO, the International Exposition of Contemporary and Modern Art, which will run September 13–17 at Navy Pier. The hub of the 2017 Biennial will once again be the Chicago Cultural Center, located in downtown Chicago.

Artistic Statement from the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial Artistic Directors, Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee

Make New History

The two central themes of the Chicago Architecture Biennial 2017 are the axis between history and modernity and the axis between architecture and art.

Of critical importance in architectural discussion today is the renewed role that history plays in its making. One of the most dramatic ruptures in the evolution of architecture over the last century has been the fissure between history and modernity. The insistence on being unprecedented and unrelated to architectures of the past reached new heights at the beginning of the millennium, as more and more architects became reluctant to consider what they do as being part of a larger collective project or part of a longer architectural history.

On the other hand, a renewed interest in history and precedents of architecture has been emerging among a new generation of architects. Committed to progress but always within an architectural tradition, these architects are producing innovative and subversive works grounded in the fundamentals of the discipline, rooted in the fabrics of the cities where they are built, without having to keep up with the latest micro-­trends and being accused of cultural appropriation. This group constantly ventures into the realm of the new and the unknown, but always returns to history in order to find the old in the new and the new in the old.

While architecture is rediscovering its own roots and tradition, its relationship with art has become more fluid and dynamic. Today this relationship between art and architecture is transforming into a new era of convergence. On one hand, both art and architecture have evolved as practices along with the changing nature of public space, in the function of specific sites, and in the expanding definitions of national and civic identities. On the other hand, the proliferation of multimedia art practices has further blurred the expertise and responsibilities of distinct disciplines.

At a time when anything goes, when there is too much information and not enough attention, when architecture does not celebrate shared values, the examination of this renewed interest in architectural history, the role of art and architecture, and their impact on cultural continuity is more pressing than ever before.

The Chicago Architecture Biennial 2017 aims to address these issues through the lens of the city. With its abundance of wealth in architectural tradition, Chicago becomes the ideal place where questions can be raised and ideas examined toward the making of a new history.

About the Artistic Directors, Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee

Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee are the founding partners of the architecture firm Johnston Marklee. They have taught at major universities including the Harvard Graduate School of Design, Princeton University, the University of California, Los Angeles, the Technical University of Berlin, and ETH Zurich. They have held the Cullinan Chair at Rice University and the Frank Gehry Chair at the University of Toronto.

Since its establishment in 1998 in Los Angeles, Johnston Marklee has been recognized nationally and internationally with awards and publications. To date, the firm has been awarded over 30 major awards, and a book on its work, entitled House Is a House Is a House Is a House Is a House, was published by Birkhauser in 2016. This followed a monograph on the firm’s work, published in 2014 by 2G.

Projects undertaken by Johnston Marklee are diverse in scale and type, spanning seven countries throughout North and South America, Europe, and Asia. Current projects include the Menil Drawing Institute, on the campus of the Menil Collection, complete in September 2017; a renovation of the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, complete in the summer of 2017; and the new UCLA Graduate Art Studios campus in Culver City, California.

The firm’s work has been exhibited internationally and is in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Menil Collection, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Carnegie Museum of Art, and the Architecture Museum of TU Munich. Johnston Marklee participated in the inaugural Chicago Architecture Biennial in 2015.

About the Executive Director, Todd Palmer

Todd Palmer comes to the Chicago Architecture Biennial from the National Public Housing Museum, where he has served as Curator since 2013. He has held concurrent posts of Interim Director (2014) and Associate Director (2015–2016). At NPHM, Palmer spearheaded multifaceted initiatives to activate the museum’s future home, build a start-­up organization’s institutional capacity, and pilot cultural programming intended to catalyze social change through education, exhibition, and convening. His efforts to raise the profile of the museum’s idealistic mission culminated in NPHM’s 2015 Chicago Architecture Biennial Program Partnership exhibitions.

Palmer is deeply engaged as both a thought leader and a creative practitioner in the arts, culture, architecture, and the built environment and their mutual relationship to broad civic concerns, drawing upon two decades of experience in the design, curation, artistic activation, and programming of cultural institutions and significant historical and contemporary architectural sites. He served as a panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts in 2016 and National Endowment for the Humanities in 2015, and is currently a board member on the Chicago Cultural Alliance Leadership Council. He has spoken widely in the US and abroad about his work in museum leadership, design, and the arts. His publications include works commissioned by The Avery Review for its Chicago Architecture Biennial edition (2015) and the Studio Museum in Harlem’s Harlemworld exhibit (2004).

Palmer holds a bachelor of arts, summa cum laude, in architectural history and theory from Princeton University and a master of architecture from Columbia University.

About the Chairman of the Board, Jack Guthman

Jack Guthman is an attorney whose practice encompasses a wide range of activity before state and local boards, commissions, the Illinois General Assembly, and the United States Congress. He has represented clients in hundreds of negotiations with and public hearings before government bodies. His experience includes 17 years as a member of the Chicago Zoning Board of Appeals, the last 12 of which he served as its Chairman.

Although his practice is broad-­ranging, a substantial portion of his work has consisted of representing developers requiring zoning changes and other relief. Guthman has acted as zoning counsel for the developers of more than 40 million square feet of major Chicago properties, including mega-­projects such as Dearborn Park and Cityfront Center; 600 and 900 North Michigan Avenue; unique undertakings such as the Miglin-­Beitler Tower, which, when proposed, was to be the world’s tallest building;; and notable large-­scale developments such as the four-­plus-­acre Harper Court and seven-­plus-­acre Atrium Village.

Guthman has also spearheaded a host of pro bono assignments involving land use on behalf of not-­for-­profit institutions. He serves on the boards or advisory committees of numerous civic, arts, and philanthropic institutions. In addition to chairing the board of the Chicago Architecture Biennial, he chairs the Civic Committee of EXPO CHICAGO and is currently a Director or Trustee of the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, United States Artists, the Chicago Architecture Foundation, and the Chicago Sculpture Exhibit. He also serves on the Conservation Center Advisory Board and the Renaissance Society International Committee. He formerly served as President of the Society for Contemporary Art at the Art Institute of Chicago and President of the honorary land use organization Lambda Alpha.

Guthman lectures widely before professional groups and at law schools on the administrative and regulatory process and is a published author in his field. Described by Crain’s Chicago Business as “zoning’s number 1 lawyer,” he was inducted into the Chicago Association of Realtors Hall of Fame in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the field.

Sponsors and Partners

The 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial is funded through private donations with lead support from SC Johnson, the Presenting Sponsor; BP, the Founding Sponsor; and the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events.

About the Chicago Architecture Biennial

The Chicago Architecture Biennial provides a platform for groundbreaking architectural projects and spatial experiments that demonstrate how creativity and innovation can radically transform our lived experience. Through its constellation of exhibitions, full-scale installations, and programming, the Biennial invites the public to engage with and think about architecture in new and unexpected ways, and to take part in a global discussion on the future of the field.

The manifestation of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s vision for a major international architectural event and an outcome of the comprehensive cultural plan developed by Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events under the leadership of Michelle T. Boone, the inaugural 2015 Chicago Architecture Biennial was presented through the support of BP, and in partnership with the City of Chicago and the Graham Foundation. Joseph Grima and Sarah Herda, Co-Artistic Directors, curated the 2015 Biennial, entitled The State of the Art of Architecture.

Chicago Architecture Biennial is a 501(c)(3) non-­profit organization dedicated to creating an international forum on architecture and urbanism through the production of exhibitions and public programs. The Chicago Architectural Biennial seeks to convene the world’s leading practitioners, theorists, and commentators in the field of architecture and urbanism to explore, debate, and demonstrate the significance of architecture to contemporary society.


Now in its fifth year as a leading international art fair, EXPO CHICAGO, the International Exposition of Contemporary and Modern Art, is a four-day art event featuring more than 145 leading international galleries and offering diverse programming, including /Dialogues, IN/SITU, IN/SITU Outside, EXPO VIDEO, and the Curatorial Forum. In addition, EXPO CHICAGO continues to publish THE SEEN: Chicago’s International Journal of Contemporary and Modern Art, following the first printed edition, which launched during the 2015 exposition. Under the leadership of President and Director Tony Karman, EXPO CHICAGO draws upon the city’s rich history as a vibrant international cultural destination, while highlighting the region’s contemporary arts community and inspiring its collector base.

EXPO CHICAGO/2016 (September 22–25) is presented by Art Expositions, LLC. Vernissage, the opening night preview benefiting the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, takes place September 22, from 6 pm to 9 pm. General admission to the exposition is September 23–25; for hours, please visit Tickets cost $20 for one day and $30 for three days. Northern Trust is the Presenting Sponsor of EXPO CHICAGO.

For more information about EXPO CHICAGO and EXPO ART WEEK (September 19–25), visit