Sergison Bates open a roundelay of short interviews focusing on the 2nd Chicago Architecture Biennial, which will be ongoing published during course of the next weeks.
Text: Jonathan Sergison – 21.9.2017
What do you exhibit in Chicago?
Our contribution to the Chicago Biennial is a tower – one of sixteen that responded to the curators’ invitation to propose a very late entry to the 1922 Chicago Tribune Tower competition. The five-meter-high column-like structures are on display in the Yates Hall at the Chicago Cultural Institute as part of the Vertical City exhibition.
How does your project correspond with the motto Make New History?
Our proposal conforms to the principles of classical ordering, although not as directly as Loos’ famous Doric column for the original competition. Nevertheless, it is formed by a base, middle and top adjusted through a process of inflection on each facade. The design is inspired by classical columns, which were often constructed by stacking stone drums one over the other, with flutes aligned to emphasize the whole. The vertical alignment of windows and piers alludes to fluting.
How is the project related to your work as architects?
The tower is directly related to one of the projects we are currently working on in the London studio: a tall, thin tower in west London. In this sense our exhibit is less speculative than many of the others on show in Vertical City. The exhibition afforded us the opportunity to make the largest model of a project we have ever produced.
What do you take along from the Chicago Biennial for your future work?
I found myself exposed for the first time to the work of people I did not previously know and to some wonderfully refreshing ideas, such as Fosbury Architecture's studies of Paris, Tham and Videgård’s and Fala Atelier’s beautiful studies of space, and Serie Architects’ stacked tables tower. But the Biennial also showcased the often surprising work of friends and colleagues like Adamo Faiden, Lütjens Padmanabhan, Made In, Pezo von Ellrichshausen, Bak Gordon and Christ and Gantenbein. I also encountered some engaging work by practices that I do not generally find a sense of commonality with, as in the study of rooms by Dogma.
In addition to all that, the rich architectural heritage of Chicago offers the perfect backdrop to an event like this. The Lake Shore Drive apartment buildings by Mies van der Rohe, the Monadnock Building by Burnham Root, the Carson Pirie Scott & Co. Building by Louis Sullivan and the Marina City towers by Bertrand Goldberg are the undisputed landmarks of an architectural pilgrimage.