3 Mar 17  | Newcity

Design 50: Who Shapes Chicago 2017

Philip Berger, Nick Cecchi, Gregory Maher, Andrew Vesselinovitch and Michael Workman
With additional contributions by Taylor Holloway, Tracy Montes, Vasia Rigou, Aaron Rose and Ben Schulman

To view the world through a political lens, one would think that narrative has superseded substance in defining how culture is shaped. When literally means figuratively and facts and falsehoods have become fungible frenemies, it seems difficult to find a clear window through which to view the world. But the political construction of (un)reality that unfolds around us everyday now—an aggressive act of, yes, design, that aims to erect a viscerally violent cultural frame around political life—is competing, not supplanting the cultural frames that have come before it. Those preexisting frames, what one might call normalcy, have not been constructed out of an elitist bubble, but rather, from interaction, iteration and hard work between the wonderful mess that makes up the American people in places just like our home, Chicago. They’re the result of years of communication and collaboration, an accretive process that ends up as, well, curation. This year, we celebrate these people. The curators, organizers, educators, critics and thinkers who lead Chicago’s design scene, who provide the outlets and channels for practitioners to create and be acknowledged, who ensure there’s still space for substance to weigh the airless culture down, who keep those frames in place, those windows clean, and the vision for a better designed tomorrow clear. 

Robert Forest
Founder/Partner, Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture
Newcity’s annual Design 50 list alternates between the doers—those on the ground making things happen, and the thinkers—those who take the 50,000-foot view. Bob Forest of Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture takes what could be equated with the orbital view—considering local and global design problems in an ever-expanding context of culture, materials, contracts, law and schedule. From his work with Chicago’s chapter of the American Institute of Architects to the way he is changing practice by designing the process of business and delivery at ASGG, Forest often seems like he is playing chess while everyone around him plays checkers.