A visit to the Elmhurst Art Museum this spring might have been more than you were bargaining for. A new installation by experimental Chicago-based practice Could Be Architecture is shaking up what might seem like a sleepy regional kunsthalle to question established notions of domesticity and historic preservation. At the same time, the studio’s playful and interactive intervention champions public engagement.
Located on the outskirts of Chicago, the Elmhurst Art Museum is known for its support of local artists and robust education program. With the Ludwig Mies van der Rohe–designed McCormick House sitting adjacent to its main facility, the institution has also put a particular emphasis on architecture. Since the house was transplanted to its current location in 1994, a number of the museum’s exhibitions have examined the impact of architecture on the Chicago area as well as its representation in other mediums, like painting and photography.
Some shows have focused specifically on Mies’s influence on the region, including through conceptual or speculative approaches to themes as varied as global citizenship and the advent of the “glass house” in relation to his work. Recent exhibitions have focused on the 100th anniversary of the Bauhaus school, of which the German-American architect was the last director. Several projects have sought to recontextualize the McCor- mick residence, one of only three single-family homes Mies ever realized. (The others are the nearby Farnsworth House and the Villa Tugendhat in Brno, Czech Republic.) New modes of exhibition-making, such as VR installations, have been employed to better understand and even challenge the architect’s legacy.