Chicago Architecture Biennial


Chicago Architecture Biennial - Piranesi Circus


Chicago, Illinois

The courtyard of the Chicago Cultural Center is inaccessible, even though it is visible from all sides of the building. This suffocating relationship enhances the perception of the courtyard as a void in the middle of the building. The proposition of bringing people into the courtyard presents several difficulties — not environmental or physical concerns, but rather issues with security, safety, and facility management. In this sense, the void is actually a “prison” governed by the functional rules of everyday life. The allegory behind G.B. Piranesi’s Carceri d’Invenzione (Imaginary Prisons) could be recalled for this void space as a means to critique the constraints of daily life.

By introducing several suspended elements for movement and circulation, the Atelier Bow-Wow designed installation animated the courtyard by exploring the idea of a prison as a place of potential where a series of circulation elements - ramp, ladder, suspended bridge, cantilevered balcony, and swing - are not accessible to the general public, but are rather for the use of circus performers — or for imaginary prisoners.

Woodhouse Tinucci Architects worked with Tokyo-based Atelier Bow-Wow on the execution and construction of the project. Fully realized in just under four months, the project required thoughtful detailing and logistical consideration so that it could be suspended within the inaccessible courtyard of the Chicago Cultural Center (a historical landmark building). The installation was on display to the public from October 3, 2015 – January 3, 2016 as part of the inaugural Chicago Architectural Biennial.







Chicago Architectural Biennial


Completed 2015

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Project Data

Area/Budget: NA / Withheld

Scope: temporary installation within an inaccessible internal courtyard space at the Chicago Cultural Center as part of the inaugural Chicago Architecture Biennial exhibition.

Project Team: Andy Tinucci, Brian Foote (project architect)

Atelier Bow-Wow (design); Thornton Tomasetti (structural); Chicago Scenic Studios (fabrication)

Photographer: Chicago Architecture Biennial / Steve Hall / Hedrich Blessing; Denise Risen Photography; Woodhouse Tinucci Architects