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Lui, McGee, and Ng to Contribute to Chicago Architecture Biennial

When the 2021 Chicago Architecture Biennial kicks off in September, it will feature the work of Taubman College faculty.

Ann Lui‘s practice, Future Firm, is participating as part of a collective called the Central Park Theater Restoration Committee — an interdisciplinary group of partners working in collaboration towards the revival of the Central Park Theater. 

The Central Park Theater has been the centerpiece of the arts and culture of Chicago’s North Lawndale neighborhood since it opened its doors in 1917. One of the most historically significant movie palaces in the United States, the theater is one of the first of its kind and became a model for buildings of its type which followed. In 1971, it became home to the House of Prayer Church of God in Christ and served as a place of worship and community concerts hosting gospel and secular greats. Today, despite its listing on the National Register of Historic Places, the Central Park’s future is uncertain. 

In 2020,the Central Park Theater Restoration Committee joined in collaboration with the church to plan for a sustainable restoration and redevelopment of the theater to serve the North Lawndale community. Currently, a planning process is underway to seek funds to address deferred maintenance and restoration priorities, while continuing ongoing community engagement.

Lui, who also is currently participating in Exhibit Columbus as a Miller Prize winner, is an assistant professor of practice in architecture.

More than 100 citywide cultural partners will present programming in coordination with the Biennial. That includes Wes McGee and Tsz Yan Ng, who are collaborating with architecture firm Skidmore Owings and Merrill (SOM) to design and build an outdoor pavilion utilizing robotic fabrication techniques for Epic Academy in Chicago’s South Shore neighborhood. The pavilion, which will be on view starting September 17, is constructed from sustainably sourced timber and will function as an outdoor classroom and an event and performance space, designed with the needs of Epic Academy students and teachers in mind.

McGee is director of Taubman College’s digital fabrication lab (FABLab) and an associate professor of architecture. Ng is an assistant professor of architecture. The pavilion is the culmination of a year-long Master of Architecture thesis studio course, Topology + timber, which focused on timber construction and was made possible through a gift from SOM to Taubman College. 

The Chicago Architecture Biennial, The Available City, will take place from September 17 to December 18, 2021, at locations across the city. The 2021 edition will present ideas and possibilities for vacant urban spaces, activated with and for local community groups in collaboration with designers.

Comprising in-person and digital programs, The Available City moves outside of what has historically been the main venue of the Chicago Cultural Center to span 10 neighborhoods and feature 18 projects created by more than 68 contributors, with site partners ranging from community gardens and historic sites to schools and vacant lots. Each will bring The Available City’s community-focused exploration of architecture and the urban landscape into neighborhoods throughout Chicago, augmented and broadened by the participation of cultural partners across the city.