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The micro and macro of 'Architecture to Scale'

The Art Institute exhibits works by Chicago bad-boy architect Stanley Tigerman and LA firm Zago Architecture.



Chicago is practically a museum of Stanley Tigerman's architectural endeavors. The 83-year-old worked with modernist greats at Keck & Keck and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill in the 1940s and 50s, spearheaded the Chicago Seven group of postmodern architects in the 70s, and founded Archeworks, the socially conscious River North design school, in the mid-90s. The Art Institute's "Architecture to Scale" showcases the contributions of the bad-boy architect, whose designs include everything from the Illinois Holocaust Museum in Skokie to an Indiana vacation home that looks like a penis and testicles.

The other half of the show is dedicated to Los Angeles-based Zago Architecture, represented by XYT: Detroit Streets, an installation comprising ten short digital films. True to the exhibition's name, the architectural process is presented in both micro (sketches and pint-size models) and macro (the panaromas of XYT fill the length of an exhibition hall, as close to life-size as can fit indoors).

Tigerman's pomo whimsy is on full display in drawings and models presented under glass. He treats a subject as bleak as the Berlin Wall, for example, with lightheartedness, lining the model of his proposed redesign with conical sycamores befitting a sort of paradise. In other works, pastels swirl together in aerial sketches of fantastical buildings and cityscapes.

Zago Architecture's contribution counters Tigerman's dreaminess. Bright colors and inventive shapes are replaced by Motor City's crumbling walls, boarded-up windows, and overgrown weeds. Created in 2008 by Andrew Zago and associate Laura Bouwman, XYT presents urban architecture starkly but not without artistic flair: the looped suite's horizontally melting background and frozen foreground make viewing the piece practically psychedelic. As the depressed landscape bleeds by in a warped motion, you almost can't believe your eyes.

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