Chicago incubates a new generation of architects | Bleader

Chicago incubates a new generation of architects


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Neil M. Denari, HL23, New York, 2011.
  • Courtesy of the artist.
  • Neil M. Denari, HL23, New York, 2011.
Earlier this week the Graham Foundation announced its 2012 individual grantees. The foundation awarded more than $400,000 to 55 projects across the world. According to director Sarah Herda, this year was its largest applicant pool—over 670 people applied. “For me, this is at the core of the importance of the Graham Foundation,” says Herda. “We have funded individuals since day one in 1956. And in our area, we’re the only people who directly fund individuals in architecture and design.”

Fritz Haeg’s project “Edible Estate #12: Budapest, Hungary” is one of this year’s grantees. In this work the LA-based artist is partnering with the Blood Mountain Foundation—an arts organization focused on bringing arts projects to Budapest and Hungary— to revisit the utopian-planned community Wekerletelep, a housing block that was constructed between 1908 and 1950. Haeg will work with community members there and revitalize a communal garden.

Another, more local, project is Osvaldo Romberg’s installation, Translocations: Mies and Melnikov. Later this year Romberg will build the floor plan of the circular Konstantin Melnikov House adjacent to Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's famous Farnsworth House in Plano, Illinois. Romberg’s artist statement says that this is his way of creating a conversation between two of the most important figures in modernism.

The 55 projects provide incredible insight into today’s architecture and design zeitgeist. “It’s really surprising how broad the trends in architecture are,” says Herda. “There are some currents like sustainability and architecture for under-served populations [see yesterday’s post], but there are also themes we can’t even define yet.”

While the Graham Foundation’s grantees come from all over the world, Chicago also seems to be reasserting itself in the global architectural dialogue. Much of this is due to Jeanne Gang and her Studio Gang Architects. “It’s a special moment for Chicago, "says Herda. "Jeanne Gang’s rise is making room for a number of younger people—Chicago is now a place that incubates architects and designers early in their careers.” But Chicago is also regaining its recognition thanks to places like the Graham Foundation, IIT, and the design school at UIC, and the diversity and enthusiasm around the Graham’s grant program is a reflection of this. “Chicago is the most important city in America for architecture. And now that’s being reflected in a new generation.”

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