Chicagoisms aims “to revive Chicago’s constructive potential and spark a renewed boldness to engage the city today.” If only we were given the opportunity to actually engage! Though ripe with good intention, Alexander Eisenschmidt’s five Chicagoisms —Vision Shapes History, Crisis Provokes Innovation, Ambition Overcomes Nature, Technology Makes Spectacle and Optimism Trumps Planning, lack the gusto to inspire.
The introduction panel provides the bulk of the text where several sweeping claims are made. First, the exhibition is a survey of Chicago’s urban history. Curiously, there is a large gap of time unaccounted for under each –Ism from Chicago’s incorporation to present day. In “Crisis” the most recent photo is from 1910, “Vision”1965, “Ambition” 1975, “Technology” 1969 and “Optimism” 1973, suggesting Chicago’s design influence is at a stalemate.
The exhibition additionally claims to provide contemporary interpretations through nine architectural models and manifestos presented successfully in response to selected –Isms. Each model is situated among historical examples. Under Ambition Overcomes Nature, a proposal for a 10,550 mile long aqueduct around the Great Lakes Basin by UrbanLab is likened to the reversal of the river. In Crisis Provokes Innovation, Port A+U shifts Lake Shore Drive east onto a man-made extension along Lake Michigan, doubling prime real estate and theoretically solving the financial crisis, similar to the rapid rebuilding after the Great Chicago Fire.
However the few glass-domed models amongst the abundance of black and white architectural photos of the past are only little presents, with little presence. A small show with big ambitions leave visitors questioning the innovative future of Chicago’s architecture.