As our editor-in-chief Bill Menking observed in a recent editorial of his own, this fall marks some big changes for The Architect’s Newspaper. We’re both widening and deepening our coverage of architecture, design, planning, and everything in between by hiring sharp new reporters and editors who will continue to make our independent upstart of a paper one of the essential resources of the industry from coast to coast. I, however, will no longer be serving as its Midwest Editor. After three and a half years manning the helm from Chicago, I’ve left the city and the post to continue my freelance career from Boston.
I’ve had the privilege of covering Chicago and the Midwest during an exciting time for its architecture and design scene. We’ve followed the emergence of wood as a tall-building material, the thorny politics of midcentury modern preservation, the rebirth of urban neighborhoods and downtowns, from Lincoln, Nebraska, to Cleveland, and countless other stories, large and small. In the edition’s home base of Chicago, it’s by all accounts the most active time for new development in recent memory, with at least a dozen high-profile projects in the pipeline or recently completed. These projects promise to shape the future of the urban experience in one of the nation’s great cities. Matt Messner, the incoming Midwest Editor, who trained at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s MAD-Crit program, will lead our continuing coverage of this exciting time in Chicago, tapping and expanding our network of freelancers in other hotspots of design around the Midwest, from the Twin Cities to Detroit to Louisville, Kentucky.
Kicking off this month, the inaugural Chicago Architecture Biennial may be the poster child for the renewed international interest in Chicago’s rollicking cultural scene. But that vibrancy has always typified Chicago, whether or not observers from afar were keyed into it. I could use this page to cheer on the design community in Chicago—its global relevance and natural cosmopolitanism, its unpretentious brilliance, its insistence on innovation despite having already cemented a legacy as a preeminent center for modern design—but Chicagoans don’t need the pat on the back to keep working. All of that will become immediately apparent to a host of new visitors during the biennial.
Less apparent to visitors who don’t go looking for it might be the city’s challenges—segregation, inequality, corruption, violence—problems which do not just belong to Chicago but to the nation as well. Last year I called for the biennial participants and organizers to tackle these issues head-on, and I hope that some do. But, of course, there’s more to these problems than any architect (let alone a festival pavilion) can address. So here’s to the spirit of hard work worth doing and the pursuit of something new—an ethos I learned in Chicago.