Following Venice debut, American Framing heads to Prague and Chicago’s Wrightwood 659


Following Venice debut, American Framing heads to Prague and Chicago’s Wrightwood 659

A four-story, wood-framed installation covered the front facade of the U.S. Pavilion during the 17th Venice Architecture Biennial. (Courtesy UIC)

American Framing, a University of Illinois Chicago (UIC)–commissioned exhibition that premiered at the United States Pavilion during the 2021 Venice Architecture Biennale, is hitting the road.

As just announced by UIC, the Paul Andersen and Paul Preissner co-curated exhibition exploring the formidable (but also largely overlooked) role of wood-framed construction in American architecture will make its stateside debut at Wrightwood 659, a Tadao Ando–designed exhibition space that debuted in 2018 Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood. Opening on May 6 and on view through July 16, the exhibition will feature a site-specific installation newly designed by Andersen and Preissner that will be realized in Wrightwood 659’s atrium.

Per a press release, the three-story installation will introduce visitors to “this quintessential architectural form” while anchoring the exhibition with “an abstraction of a wood-framed building, exaggerating the form and inverting the roof.” In addition to the soaring installation, the exhibition will also feature scale models of historic, wood-framed buildings researched and built by UIC students. According to UIC, these models include structures that were too large or complex to be realized at the U.S. Pavilion for the Biennale. Also on view will be commissioned photographs by UIC alumnus Chris Strong and Daniel Shea and domestic lumber furnishings designed by UIC students in collaboration with Ania Jaworska, Clinical Assistant Professor at the UIC School of Architecture, as well as with Norman Kelley, a Chicago and New Orleans-based architecture and design collaborative led by Thomas Kelley, assistant professor at UIC, and Carrie Norman.

“Wood framing is the great forgotten basis of American architecture. It is especially exciting to bring this project to our audiences here in Chicago while continuing to build awareness of this often dismissed or ignored form of construction globally,” said Preissner, a professor at UIC who, as mentioned, served as co-curator of American Framing alongside fellow UIC faculty member Andersen. He is also the founder of the self-described “pretty good” Chicago-area practice Paul Preissner Architects.

In addition to its homecoming of sorts at Woodwood 659, American Framing will also be reinstalled at Galerie Jaroslava Fragnera, an architecture-focused gallery in Prague, for a concurrent exhibition running from April 28 through June 24. As detailed by UIC, that iteration of American Framing will bring together key elements of the original presentation in Venice including student-built scale models and Strong and Shea’s photographs. A new, site-specific installation will also be built outside of the gallery space in the historic heart of the Czech capital city. A series of educational outreach programs held at Galerie Jaroslava Fragnera and at a number of universities and other learning hubs will also be launched to complement the re-staged exhibition.

What’s more, a book entitled American Framing: The Same Something for Everyone is also set for publication by Park Books this June.

As UIC notes in its press release:

“The publication is a visual and textual exploration of the conditions and consequences of wood framing and sheds new light on this quintessentially American method of construction. Richly illustrated by a comprehensive archive of historical images of wood framing, commissioned photography by Daniel Shea and Chris Strong, and plans, drawings, and photography of the presentation in Venice, the text includes original essays by UIC Faculty Paul Preissner, Paul Andersen, and Penelope Dean, and the architect and curator Dan Handel as well as narratives connecting wood framing to popular culture and reprints of notable articles on the architectural form.”

“As educators and practicing architects, Paul and I often explore how ordinary architecture might be a platform for new ideas and discourse,” said Andersen, who, in addition to his role as UIC Clinical Associate Professor, is director of Denver- and Chicago-based practice Independent Architecture. “By extending this project with new presentations, American Framing continues to expand our understanding of the history, importance, and possibilities of wood framing.”

Details for both the Chicago and Prague exhibitions are as follows:

American Framing at Wrightwood 659, presented by Alphawood Exhibitions in cooperation with the University of Illinois Chicago.

May 6–July 16, 2022
659 W. Wrightwood, Chicago, IL 60614
Open Hours: Fridays, 12-7 p.m. and Saturdays, 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. Advance tickets required.

American Framing at Galerie Jaroslava Fragnera, made possible by The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State.

April 28 – June 24, 2022
Betlémské náměstí 5a, 110 00 Prague, Czechia
Open Hours: Tuesday-Sunday: 11 a.m.-7 p.m.