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Chicago Architecture Biennial names Johnston Marklee 2017 artistic directors

Partners of the Los Angeles-based firm will take the reins as the successful event returns for its sophomore outing.

The artistic directors of the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial (CAB) will be Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee, partners in the Los Angeles–based firm Johnston Marklee, according to the CAB and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

The second staging of the citywide festival of architecture and design will take place on September 16–December 31, 2017. Last year’s inaugural event, a gathering of 120 architecture and design firms from more than 30 countries, was meant to establish a Chicago architecture festival as both a cultural highlight and a North American counterpoint to the Venice Biennial. It was judged a huge success in terms of visitors and press attention, attracting 530,000 visitorsover the four-month event, while receiving positive, yet mixed, reviews from critics.

"The Chicago Architecture Biennial’s return in 2017 confirms Chicago as an architectural hub," said Mayor Emanuel in a statement. "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."

Partners both at work and at home, Johnston and Lee are known as progressive architects with a wide stylistic range. Projects by the LA-based firm include the Hill House, an abstract residence that hugs a hillside in Pacific Palisades, California, and the yet-to-open Menil Drawing Institute, a gallery for contemporary drawing opening in Houston, Texas, next year. They succeed Sarah Herda and Joseph Grima, the co-creative directors in 2015.

The co-directors also announced that the central themes of next year’s event will be "the axis between history and modernity and the axis between architecture and art." As noted in their just-released artistic statement:

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.

Both of the Biennial's major 2015 sponsors, SC Johnson and BP, have renewed their support, committing $2.5 million and $1 million, respectively, to next year's event. Todd Palmer, who previously worked for the National Public Housing Museum, will join the CAB team as Executive Director.