Chicago Architecture Biennial gearing up for 2017 launch

James Welling/Chicago Architecture Biennial

With only two weeks until the launch of the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial, the team behind the event have been releasing a steady stream of promotional teasers and guides. For those planning to attend, there’s a lot to take in and see, but the Biennial has helped organize some of the happenings in one blog post.

In addition to its guide on exploring the Biennial, the team behind the exposition have also released a promo video.

Led by artistic directors Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee of LA-based architecture firm Johnston Marklee, this year’s edition of the Chicago Architecture Biennial aims to bring the past and future together under the banner of “Make New History.”

Similar to the inaugural Biennial, the Chicago Cultural Center will serve as the anchor site for this year’s edition. But in addition to the static installations at the Chicago Cultural Center, the Biennial will feature numerous exhibitions and displays at neighborhood anchor sites.

This year’s Chicago Architecture Biennial, which will highlight designers and architects from over 140 different firms, launches on September 16, 2017 and will run through January 7, 2018.

Chicago Labor Day Weekend 2017: What to Do

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Here’s how to best enjoy the last gasp of summer in the Windy City.

Summer in Chicago is magical, but it also doesn’t seem to last long. Labor Day weekend marks the end of festival and beach seasons, which, for some, portends impending doom. To borrow the House words of Stark, winter is coming—so make sure you say goodbye to summer with a bang.

Stuff your face with food…and culture

When summer hits the Windy City, neighborhoods practically vibrate with electricity and energy, thanks in large part to the festivals that pop-up all over town. First up is the free Chicago Jazz Festival, with four days of international acts gracing the Cultural Center and Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park, running from September 1-4. From there, hit Navy Pier for all the seafood you can eat at the Great American Lobster Fest (September 1-3), or zip over to Washington Park for the African Festival of Arts ($15 admission, September 1-4), a vibrant bazaar of music, artisan handiwork, world cuisines, and family-friendly entertainment.

Make the museum rounds

Labor Day marks the last day of the colorful and fascinating “Tattoo” exhibition at the Field Museum. Exploring the global culture of ink, “Tattoo” explores the rituals, origins, and meaning of body art, from its beginnings in the Pacific to Sailor Jerry’s post-war influence. While you’re at it, explore the larger-than-life “Jurassic World” exhibition in a special tent adjacent to the Field. For an additional $15, the immersive experience lets you get up close with dinosaurs beyond dusty fossils, like the Brachiosaurus, Velociraptor, and, of course, the Tyrannosaurus rex.

Want more Pacific-themed art? Make a beeline to the Art Institute for “Gauguin: Artist as Alchemist,” which ends September 10. The exhibit celebrates the post-Impressionist’s paintings, sculptures, and prints from his globe-trotting. If wild color and flights of fancy are more your speed, the Museum of Contemporary Art is currently displaying the whimsical pop art of Takashi Murakami, through September 24. Explore the influential Japanese artist’s humble beginnings in traditional folk art as well as his anime-inspired, large-scale collaborations with the likes of Kanye West and Louis Vuitton.

Courtesy Field Museum

Visiting the Field Museum? Say hi to Sue, the largest, most complete T. rex skeleton ever found.

Cruise Lake Michigan on a yacht

The Architecture Foundation’s Chicago River tour is one of the best things to do in the city, but if you want to take in the skyline from a yacht, head to Spirit Cruises, docked at Navy Pier. Hop aboard one of the cocktail, dinner, or firework cruises, and snack and sip while the boat boomerangs out over Lake Michigan, providing a prime view of Chicago’s iconic skyline. (Spirit is also offering special brunch and dinner cruises on Labor Day itself.) Sailing lengths range from one-and-a-half hours to three, and prices begin at $30.

Watch the divas belt it out

Come summer, Ravinia becomes Chicago’s living room, and visitors to the park’s 36 acres sit on a sprawling lawn to enjoy world-class acts. The oldest outdoor music festival in the country is a huge draw, especially when acts like Gladys Knight, Michael Bolton, UB40, and Aretha Franklin—some of this year’s headliners—take the stage. Pack a picnic, drink some wine, and enjoy the tunes. (It’s BYOB.)

Head to the water

The city’s beaches close Labor Day, so get to the water. North Avenue and Oak Street beaches will draw the largest crowds, so hop on a Divvy bikeshare and head north—but not before stopping by excellent barbecue shack Flat and Point, which is owned and operated by Sepia and Charlie Trotter veteran, Brian Bruns. For more of a boardwalk feel, head to The Dock at Montrose Beach for casual American fare. Just south of the Loop, beaches like 31st and 57th Street beaches offer incredible views of the skyline, and are far less crowded.

The Loop’s new Washington-Wabash ‘L’ station opens August 31

CTA/EXP

Next week, the $75 million Washington-Wabash ‘L’ station will make its grand debut in the heart of the Loop. Starting August 31, the new station will officially be open to the public. Having been under construction for nearly three years, the contemporary station replaces the former stops at Madison-Wabash and Randolph-Wabash under one roof as a new Loop superstation.

With a central location in the Loop, the station will service the Brown, Purple, Orange, Green and Pink lines. According to city officials, the construction project has been financed entirely with federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) funds and will feature recycled materials, new LED lighting, and will also meet ADA compliance.

The station is already turning heads with its striking contemporary design and skeletal canopy that is reminiscent of the work of Santiago Calatrava, the star architect behind the new World Trade Center transit hub in New York. However, the design for the new Washington-Wabash comes from engineering and design outfit EXP—a firm that announced its move from its Toronto headquarters to Chicago back in February.

Once opened, the new station will be a become a major hub along the CTA’s rail system. The transit agency estimates that the Washington-Wabash station will see roughly 13,000 riders per day, making it one of the busiest stations in the system.

 

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Here’s one sign of a hot Chicago real estate market ahead

Summer could end hot, with a surge of homes in the Chicago area in the next few months, according to a new report.

Applications for mortgages and mortgage pre-approval spiked in the Chicago metro area during the second quarter of the year, according to data released today by Attom, an online real estate information service.

If large numbers of them go to the next step, purchasing a home, “we expect the Chicago area to be one of the hottest in the nation in the third quarter,” Daren Blomquist, Attom’s senior vice president wrote in an email.

The Chicago area ranked second only to Colorado Springs in Attom’s study of “pre-movers,” or people who own houses but apply for a purchase mortgage or pre-approval. (Refinances are not counted.) The index for Chicago was 241, and for Colorado Springs, 249. Nationwide, the index was 100, which means Chicago-area homeowners were more than twice as likely to buy a house than homeowners nationwide.

Attom’s study reports only an index figure, not raw numbers of mortgages.

Blomquist said the growth in interested buyers in the Chicago area may come from two key factors. First is that home prices are more affordable here than in “overheated markets such as San Francisco and San Jose,” where moving up may not be an option for many homeowners at the moment. Second is that as the housing recovery brings more Chicago-area homeowners into the positive-equity zone on their mortgages, they’re finally able to consider selling for a move to their next home.

Most of the mortgage activity in the first quarter would convert to purchases in July, August and September. Sales data for July, also released today, showed a decline in sales volume throughout the region.

But Blomquist noted that Chicago homeowners showed a similar surge in mortgage applications in the first quarter of the year, and it played out as an increase in home sales of about eight percent the following quarter. In the same period, sales were down three percent nationally.

If the same thing happens during the current quarter, Blomquist said, it’s “a healthy sign of upward mobility available to current homeowners and prospective homeowners” in the Chicago area, and “something many of the red-hot coastal markets are missing in this housing boom.”

Markets where homes are changing hands are noteworthy at a time when inventory shortages have constrained sales while pushing prices higher and provoking bidding wars for listings that do hit the market. Limited supply and high prices have damped activity in markets, like San Francisco, that are typically associated with high demand.

The figures derive from mortgage applications submitted during the second quarter of 2017, offering a glimpse of home sales just ahead. The index is compiled by comparing the number of homes flagged in mortgage applications to the total number of homes in a given market.

Because the data come from applications submitted from April through June, they include some transactions that have already closed and some that are still pending. The index offers faster feedback than data pulled from recorded sales, according to Blomquist.

The report offers clues to where buyers are finding a greater supply of affordable homes.

“Within regional markets, we’re seeing some similar patterns to the last housing boom, where it became drive until you qualify,” Blomquist said, referring to the real estate adage urging home hunters to go where they can afford to buy. Home loans are harder to get this time around, he added, but housing market activity appears most robust in “the outlying counties further from jobs, but also less expensive.”

Bloomberg contributed.

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