• Who Builds Your Architecture?
    Karen Kice
    Kurokawa Gallery, Art Institute of Chicago
    Oct 18, 2016 to Jun 11, 2017
    Art Institute of Chicago

WBYA?, Global Design Construction Networks, 2014. Courtesy of the artists.

The exhibition Who Builds Your Architecture? engages viewers about the role of labor in architectural design and construction through two separate parts. The first, “From Office/Home/Factory to Jobsite,” visualizes the expanded sites and human networks connected to a single construction site of a fictional transnational project. Displayed as a large-scale drawing/collage on one wall, it shows how an architectural detail goes from conceptualization in an office to materialization in a factory to execution on the construction site and how farmers become migrant construction workers on their journey to the same construction site. The second, “Who Builds: Case Studies,” features a database of architectural components excerpted from buildings in Chicago, Istanbul, and New York. Each case study charts how a global network of materials and workers contribute to a specific building component. Collectively, the two parts depict for viewers how people and materials move through the larger systems of architecture and construction but in unequal ways.

Who Builds Your Architecture? (WBYA?) is an advocacy group that examines the links between labor, architecture, and the global networks that form around the building of buildings. WBYA? interrogates design processes to construction practices to workers’ rights to new technologies in order to redefine the role of architecture and architects in promoting fair working conditions and sustainable building practices at building sites worldwide. Formed in 2011, this group of academics, scholars, designers, curators, writers, and students advocates for fair labor practices by initiating interdisciplinary collaborations. They deploy the tools, methods, and approaches of architecture to probe and evaluate how the process of building—locally and globally—impacts the work and life conditions of those who build our architecture. To identify the networks that link architects and construction workers, WBYA? has organized a series of local and international public panels, closed-door discussions, and workshops. These events have generated an ongoing dialogue that urges architects and allied fields to better understand how the production of buildings connects their practices to (migrant) construction workers who build their designs. The outcomes of these events, in different forms, offer ways to imagine how individuals and professionals might rethink design and architecture and how collective activism might aid in promoting fair labor around the world. The WBYA? team includes Kadambari Baxi, Jordan Carver, Laura Diamond Dixit, and Mabel O. Wilson.

Karen Kice is the Neville Bryan Assistant Curator in the Department of Architecture and Design at the Art Institute of Chicago. A researcher, writer, and curator in the field of architecture and urbanism, Kice received her BFA in art history and ceramics from the Kansas City Art Institute and her MS in architectural history and theory from the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London.

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