UIC builds reputation at Chicago Architecture Biennial


“Summer Vault,” designed by faculty and students in the School of Architecture, is one of four lakefront kiosks commissioned by the Chicago Architecture Biennial.


What’s robin’s-egg blue and sits near The Bean in Millennium Park?

“Summer Vault,” UIC’s most visible contribution to the first Chicago Architecture Biennial.

The biennial, which continues through January, is “a platform for groundbreaking architectural projects and spatial experiments” that includes exhibits, programs and events.

“Summer Vault,” designed by UIC School of Architecture faculty and students, is one of four kiosks commissioned as a permanent legacy for the biennial (the others were designed by the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois Institute of Technology and Ultramoderne, a Rhode Island architecture firm).

The UIC kiosk was designed by faculty member Paul Preissner of Paul Preissner Architects, Paul Anderson of Independent Architecture, and three 2015 graduates of the master’s program in architecture, Matt Busscher, Jesus Corral and Siobhan Barrett.

“Ours is the only one that, in its full constitution, is in Millennium Park,” Preissner said.

The carbon steel structure vault is divided into two spaces, one enclosed by screens and doors for use by a vendor, and one open to the air for the public. Next spring, it will be moved to a permanent site at the Harold Washington Playlot Park, East 53rd Street and Lake Shore Drive, where a marble floor will be added.

Preissner was chosen to design UIC’s kiosk by Robert Somol, director of the School of Architecture, because he and Anderson had worked on similar projects in other cities.

The three graduate students were primarily involved in the first stages.

“On the paint alone we tested dozens of paint application strategies, from stripes to spots and everything in between, each of which could drive price way up or down,” Corral said.

“We constructed several study models to investigate different types of surface treatments while considering potential cost, constructibility and serviceability issues,” Busscher said. “I think the most valuable takeaway was learning how these issues are balanced and how they ultimately get resolved through the construction process.”

Of the 99 participants from all over the world invited to participate in biennial activities, 11 are from UIC. Besides Preissner, the others are Kelly Bair of Central Standard Office of Design, David Brown, Sarah Dunn of Urban Lab, Grant Gibson of CAMES/Gibson, Stewart Hicks and Allison Newmeyer of Design w/Company, Ania Jaworska, Thomas Kelley of Norman Kelley, Sean Lally of WEATHERS and Andrew Moddrell of PORT.

“It just speaks to the quality of faculty that we have right now,” Preissner said.

“Part of the biennial’s premise is to not just exhibit to Chicagoans what’s going on outside of Chicago, but also to introduce to the rest of the world what’s going on in Chicago,” he said.

At the UIC School of Architecture, “It’s much more about contemporary problems in architecture, versus some other schools that are treating it as a kind of traditional service practice.”


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