Chicago Architecture Biennial Artistic Director Yesomi Umolu Shares Her Essentials

By Stephen Ostrowski | September 10, 2019 | Culture

As the 2019 Chicago Architecture Biennial kicks off this month, artistic director Yesomi Umolu shares what animates her scholarly world.

Yesomi Umolu (c

With the third Chicago Architecture Biennial, the Windy City once again welcomes the discipline’s brightest minds to North America’s premier architecture and design showcase. Spearheading the far-ranging event, themed “...and other such stories,” is Yesomi Umolu, who along with curatorial duo Sepake Angiama and Paulo Tavares oversees the citywide efforts of 80-plus contributors tackling how the discipline can inform concepts of memory, sovereignty and other topics.

“The biennial is not about a singular statement,” explains Umolu, who also serves as director and curator for the Logan Center Exhibitions at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts at the University of Chicago. “It’s about trying to draw a series of complex narratives that connect Chicago to elsewhere—but, also, connect to the most pressing issues we’re facing globally, and how these issues affect our cities, our communities and our connection to the natural world.” Below, the Hyde Park resident shares the people, places and fascinations that catch her discerning eye. Sept. 19-Jan. 5, 2020

01/ [The Tate Modern] speaks to how a space can be welcoming and open to all, and that art and architecture do not have to be difficult. They can be rigorous and complex, but they can also be accessible.”

02/[Dubai] is really a meeting point between Europe, Africa and Asia, and I enjoy being there because of its multiculturalism.”

03/ “My favorite author is [the late] Toni Morrison because of the way she beautifully captured the untold stories of the American experience and gave voice to the marginalized.”

Toni Morrison (Photo by Deborah Feingold/Corbis Via Getty Images)

04/ “Being at the Logan Center is an opportunity for me to flex my muscles in terms of the curatorial work I do in the gallery, but also connect to the student community and the faculty space at the university.” 915 E. 60th St., 773.702.2787

Photo ©Tom Rossiter/courtesy of Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, University of Chicago

05/ “I love living in Hyde Park. It’s a beautiful neighborhood in terms of being very bucolic and green with easy access to the lake. It also has a fascinating history.”

06/ “I’ve spent a lot of time in [David Adjaye’s] buildings in London, and they really impacted my relationship to certain cultural spaces I was frequenting—his sensitivity to creating a work that is about responding to a community’s needs.”

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