Chicago Architecture Biennial

  • September 17, 2021
  • December 18, 2021
  • Chicago, IL

CHICAGO ARCHITECTURE BIENNIAL

From The Chicago Architecture Biennial website and the Creative Denmark website -

The fourth edition of the Chicago Architecture Biennial (CAB) will open to the public on September 17, responding to an urban design framework that proposes connecting community residents, architects, and designers to develop and create spaces that reflect the needs of communities and neighborhoods. Over 80 contributors from more than 18 countries will respond to this framework through site-specific architectural projects, exhibitions, and programs across eight neighborhoods in Chicago and in the digital sphere.

Curated by the Biennial’s 2021 Artistic Director—designer, researcher, and educator David Brown—The Available City will present projects and programs that ask and respond to the question of who gets to participate in the design of the city by exploring new perspectives and approaches to policies. The Available City illuminates the potential for immediate new possibilities, highlights improvisational organizers of the city, and underscores the exponential impact of small elements in aggregate.

The Biennial is free and open to the public beginning on Friday, September 17. It will be on view at sites and in locations throughout the city, activated through in-person and online programming through December 18, 2021. - Chicago Architecture Biennial Website

Chicago Architecture Biennial Website

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When America's largest architecture and design event Chicago Architecture Biennial 2021 opens in September, the new SoilLab will represent Denmark with a project that puts communities first.

"We are delighted to have been chosen to represent Denmark at the 2021 Chicago Architecture Biennial and are grateful to the jury for believing in our proposal," says the Soil Lab team.

According to the Danish team, the core of the winning project is to work with the residents of the hard-hit district in Chicago in transforming one of the district's countless built spaces into a new, common urban space that can bring positive change to the community.

The 2021 commission is the second time the Statens Kunstfond has invited Danish creatives to propose a site-specific project for Chicago. 

The Soil Lab team consist of Eibhlín Ní Chathasaigh, James Martin, Maria Bruun, and Anne Dorthe Vester. - Creative Denmark Website

Creative Denmark Website

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Soil Lab is the winner of an Open Call hosted by the Danish Arts Foundation in collaboration with the Chicago Architecture Biennial for a major new commission in the North Lawndale neighborhood of Chicago. Soil Lab will include workshops and built elements grounded in bricks, a material with significance to both the Chicago and the Danish architectural vernacular. The commission reflects the DAF’s mission to highlight Danish architecture and design traditions on a global platform while also facilitating conversations about the role of the arts and design in shaping communities. The project also emphasizes global collaboration—between cultures, between disciplines, and between the winning design team and the local community in Chicago. 

The 2021 commission is the second time the DAF has invited Danish creatives, and creatives with close ties to the Danish architecture and design field, to propose a site-specific project for Chicago. During the 2019 Chicago Architecture Biennial, Cabbage Patch—an installation of 10,000 cabbages developed by Danish artist duo Gamborg/Magnussen—was sited at the Garfield Park Conservatory. This year’s commission directly responds to CAB’s 2021 edition theme The Available City, led by Artistic Director David Brown. Conceived of as an urban design approach rooted in community engagement, The Available City brings together local and international design thinkers with community stakeholders, residents, and students to chart new, impactful uses for design and architecture that respond to the reality of the existing city fabric. The DAF commission enacts this methodology on a global scale, enabling a close collaboration between an international design team and Chicago residents.

The Soil Lab project involves two main efforts: the making of structures out of bricks, rammed earth, and ceramic tiles; and the construction of spaces for communal gathering. Soil Lab is inspired by the work of Jens Jensen—a Danish-American landscape architect whose work can be seen throughout several of Chicago’s major parks—who believed in the importance of reconnecting with oneself and one’s community through engaging with nature and natural materials. Soil Lab suggests a special meeting between architecture, object, and the body as participants are invited to engage in the process of creating bricks, to slow down and consider the materiality of the spaces that we occupy. Various proposed built elements such as benches, tables, and a gallery wall made from brick encourage movement, interaction, pause, and conversation.

The Soil Lab team, made up of architects and designers based in Copenhagen and Dublin, will begin work this spring through a series of virtual conversations with local community groups in North Lawndale. Over the course of the next seven months, the final site design and implementation of the project will be shaped and rolled out with input from and in close collaboration with local residents and organizations. Soil Lab will be activated throughout the 2021 Biennial, which opens in September.

The DAF and CAB partnership looks to the collaborative methodology of The Available City to create a new, shared space with and for residents of North Lawndale. The new commission builds on an ongoing process of repurposing vacant lots into community assets across Chicago and in North Lawndale specifically: the project will be sited near the corner of 13th and Pulaski just down the street from a permaculture food forest run with students from the nearby CCA Academy and a site currently being developed by the Young Men’s Employment Network (YMEN).

Three finalist projects received honorable mentions: Creative Community of North Lawndale: A Project of Mapping and Connecting – JAC Studios, Eve Fineman, Bridgette Buckley, Norman Teague Design Studios; The Communal Table – arki_lab in collaboration with and Alberte Nicoline Tranberg; and Movement in a Frame – Iben Jørgensen.

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The Soil Lab project team is made up of three architects, James Albert Martin, Eibhlín Ní Chathasaigh, and Anne Dorthe Vester, and one designer, Maria Bruun, working across different scales, materials, and disciplines. James, Eibhlín, and Anne Dorthe studied together at the Aarhus School of Architecture in Denmark and have since collaborated on several projects. James and Eibhlín are based in Dublin, where they have both worked for internationally renowned architecture firms. Maria and Anne Dorthe are based in Copenhagen, where they founded the studio MBADV in 2013. Their practice with MBADV is at the intersection of architecture, design, and fine art. The project team comes together around a belief in making as a collaborative act: making moments, and making spaces and places for people to gather, to celebrate, and to treasure space. 


Eibhlín Ní Chathasaigh graduated from the Aarhus School of Architecture, Denmark, in 2011. Since graduating she has worked for Atelier Peter Zumthor in Switzerland and Grafton Architects in Dublin, Ireland. In 2018, Eibhlín joined James and Anne Dorte in participating in the REFORM Design Biennale with their collaboration Woven Construct, constructed in the garden of Munkeruphus Center of Contemporary Art, in Zealand, Denmark. Eibhlín believes imagination is the central strength of architecture and is interested in the social act of architecture and design as a collaborative conversation. It is with great pleasure that, together with the people of North Lawndale and the Soil Lab team, she embarks on transforming a vacant lot in West Chicago into a new public space.

James Albert Martin is a registered architect with the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland and Grade 3 Accredited in Architectural Conservation. He has taught at The Aarhus School of Architecture and at University College Dublin where he is currently a Design Fellow. James is interested in the act of making, and his work is informed by this collaborative act. James holds a MA from The Aarhus School of Architecture and has also undertaken courses in joinery at Capellagården - a school for craft and design. Since graduating he has worked with international studios; Sou Fujimoto Architects, Herzog & de Meuron, and Grafton Architects. In 2018, James, Eibhlín, and Anne Dorte participated in REFORM Design Biennale with their collaboration Woven Construct, a seat, a screen, space, which they constructed in the garden of Munkeruphus, north of Copenhagen.

Throughout her work, whether small or large scale, architect Anne Dorthe Vester's projects are based on the study of materials and the processing of these. The craft in itself is central to her understanding of materials. She is also part of the duo MBADV that works with objects in the cross-field between art, architecture, and design. MBADV is a collaboration with furniture designer Maria Bruun. Anne Dorthe Vester holds a MA from The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Architecture, and a BA from Aarhus School of Architecture. Additionally, she has taken courses in joinery at KTS (Copenhagen technical college) and at Capellagården - school for craft and design.

With her work, the Danish designer Maria Bruun joins a long-standing design tradition. With sincere respect for classic Danish furniture, Bruun builds on this foundation with an innovative approach, creating her design in close dialogue with skilled craftspeople. She often devotes her work to the refinement of the individual elements and persistently seeks out new possibilities in her field. Bruun was appointed emerging talent 2019-2020 by the Danish Arts Foundation. This honorable appointment positions her as one of the most promising emerging designers in Denmark right now. She is a part of the duo MBADV that works with objects in the cross-field between art, architecture, and design. MBADV is a collaboration with architect Anne Dorthe Vester. Maria Bruun holds a MA in furniture Design from The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Design.


National Foundation for Danish America
PO Box 1003
Wilmette, Illinois 60091

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