Chicago Architecture Biennial 2015: the first career retrospective of architect David Adjaye has opened at the Art Institute of Chicago, featuring a full-size replica of his 2007 Horizon pavilion (+ slideshow).
Making Place: The Architecture of David Adjaye spans more than 20 years of architecture, furniture design, and urban planning. The exhibition, spread across galleries on two floors, includes photographs, drawings, models, videos, mock-ups and products.
But the largest exhibit is a full-size replica of Adjaye's Horizon pavilion – a boxy volume made up of blackened wood slats.
Light filters in through the slates on the sides casting bands onto the textured wood floor to reveal a pair of canted walls leading to a smaller opening. As visitors approach the opening, a pixelated image on the wall of the Sea of Galilee becomes visible.
"The exhibition is exciting for us because it has been an opportunity to really ask ourselves, how can we bring architecture to life in a gallery or museum environment?" said co-curator Zoe Ryan, the Art Institute's chief curator of architecture and design.
"Horizon is particularly exciting for us because its an opportunity for visitors to experience David's work at a one-to-one scale, which you rarely get in an exhibition environment."
In both rooms, the aim was to show how the Tanzanian-born British architect approaches each project with a deep inquiry into the site's history, culture, and climate.
Each building is unique, but they share a common language of strong geometries and rich or unconventionally treated materials, according to Ryan.
"This isn't about sealing David's career with a retrospective exhibition, but rather highlighting a critical moment to consider the possibilities of where David's practice is headed," she said.
"My hope is that the exhibition will promote a much richer understanding of an architect committed to creating projects of social and cultural significance and meaning," she added.
Unlike many architecture exhibitions that rely primarily on photographs or drawings, Making Place is dominated by models, intended to give visitors a more immediate sense of Adjaye's designs.
Large mock-ups of the textured concrete at his Sugar Hill affordable housing development in Harlem or the woven red metal facade of the planned Aishti Foundation in Beirut make the materiality of his work accessible to viewers.
Adjaye's current American work includes the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC, the Studio Museum in Harlem, and the Linda Pace Foundation's museum in San Antonio, Texas.