From the development of the modern house to the emergence of information design, each era faces the challenge of adapting conventional ideas to new technology, social needs, and cultural ideals. This exhibition takes a broad historical view of the innovations that have shaped contemporary life and the built environment through suites of work devoted to historical and emerging typologies in architecture and design. Spanning the 20th and 21st centuries, these thematic suites highlight important recent acquisitions and areas of strength in the permanent collection of the Department of Architecture and Design at the Art Institute of Chicago.
Common manifestations of innovation and evolution emerge across diverse objects and typologies. Technology—both analogue and digital—serves as a driver for many of the projects featured in this exhibition, notably those by designers Aaron Koblin, James Goggin, and Scott Wilson, which rethink how we represent and interact with information. For architects, rapid prototyping, green technology, and advances in structural engineering have led to exciting new ideas for cultural buildings and ambitious, supertall towers. Many of these projects are creative adaptations or subversions of conventional objects—from modern architect Paul Schweikher’s challenge to the American domestic ideal in the 1930s to the sculptural form of low-energy Plumen bulbs by Hulger and Samuel Wilkinson Design. Material exploration is another important driver of new types, including FormaFantasma’s exciting research on preindustrial resins for its Botanica series. This exhibition demonstrates the many principals of invention—optimization, retooling, and mutation—that shape our cities and the new forms of media influencing the way we think, live, and communicate.