The second edition of the Chicago Architecture Biennial officially kicked off September 16, 2017, at the Chicago Cultural Center. The event is the largest architecture and design exhibition in the United States and aims to showcase the transformative impact of creativity and innovation in these fields.

The event’s Artistic Directors Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee invited over 141 designers and architects from over 20 countries to showcase their work. Consisting of a mix of drawings, installations, events and “immersive environments” inspired by this year’s theme, “Make New History,” the exhibits will be available for viewing at the Chicago Cultural Center and six off-site locations around the city. The exhibit is FREE and will run until January 7, 2018.

Tours + 3 Must-Visit Chicago Cultural Center Exhibits

Because there are several sites to visit, the organizers of the Biennial also offer free exhibition tours twice a day, each 45–60 minutes. These tours start at the Biennial Welcome & Learning Center, and require no reservations. If you plan to bring a large group of 6 or more, RSVP on the Chicago Architectural Biennial website.

Chicago Architectural Biennial

However, if group and guided tours are not your thing, you can opt to explore sites on your own. Here are some of the most popular options:

"Vertical City"

For "Vertical City," participants were invited to submit entries for the Chicago Tribune Tower competition of 1922. The competition sought to build the “world’s most beautiful tower” and became famous for rejecting entries from architectural greats, including the likes of Walter Gropius and Adolf Loos. This was a hit during the press previews of the Chicago Architecture Biennial and is considered one of the grandest exhibits. "Vertical City" can be found at the Yates Hall of the Cultural Center.

"Room of Plinths"

This exhibit, which is displayed at the G.A.R Hall of the Chicago Cultural Center, was curated by Johnson Marklee. The exhibit features over two dozen miniature rooms that represent several types of architectural styles. In constructing the rooms, inspiration was taken from ancient Egyptian tombs to Yves Saint Laurent’s Paris apartment to Chicago’s own 875 N Michigan building (formerly the John Hancock Center). The will run throughout the final dates of the biennial.

"Five Rooms"

Conceptualized by Paul Andersen and Paul Preissner, "Five Rooms" takes you into a sequence of galleries that the two describe as “too wide to be a hallway and too narrow to comfortably view exhibitions.” The galleries showcase exquisite photographs from sociologist David Schalliol that depict the transformation of the Chicago Housing Authority and how it impacted the locals and the surrounding landscape.

Meet the Architects at Free Talks: Chicago Architectural Biennial Events

The Chicago Biennial runs for over 3 months, and features several highlights all over Chicago including River Edge Idea Lab, where nine architects were given a chance to present their visions of Chicago’s second coast, the Chicago river system. The river system has currently been a focus of projects, especially after the development of the Chicago Riverwalk. This exhibition will run throughout the final biennial dates at Expo 72 (72 E. Randolph).

Visit for a complete list of the related gallery talks from the leading firms such as Studio Gang and Ross Barney Architects.

There will also be a series of talks, called CAB Pillars. Upcoming talks feature architects Cesar Pelli and Art Gensler in a moderated conversation about architectural practices moving to the future (November 2), organizers Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee on their reflections of New History (November 15), and a discussion on the Frank Lloyd Wright House by Ken Tadashi Oshima, president of the Society of Architectural Historians (November 16).

This year marks the second edition of the Chicago Architectural Biennial. The first ran from October 2015 to January 2016, with the theme "The State of the Art of Architecture," and attracted more than half a million visitors. Will you be attending any of the events?