Madlener House
4 West Burton Place
Chicago, Illinois 60610
Telephone: 312.787.4071


Tropic Antics
Lesley Lokko
Mar 23, 2016, 6pm

Please RSVP

In 2004, architect, academic, and novelist Lesley Lokko made the decision to build her own house in Accra, Ghana, where she grew up. In an era where middle-class Ghanaian aspirations tend firmly towards neo-Classicism, Lokko’s “Miesian mud house” provoked much criticism. ‘Is it a petrol station?’, one passer-by asked indignantly, referring to the white, square Shell petrol stations, first introduced in Accra in the early 1960s, few of which are still standing in their original state. In conjunction with the Graham Foundation’s new exhibition, Architecture of Independence: African Modernism, Lokko will explore the relationship between form, memory, identity, and independence.

Lesley Lokko is head of the Postgraduate School of Architecture at the University of Johannesburg and the author of nine best-selling novels. She received her BSc(Arch) and MArch from the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London, and her PhD in architecture from the University of London. She has taught at schools of architecture in the US, the UK, as well as South Africa, where she was Visiting African Scholar at the University of Cape Town. She is the editor of "White Papers, Black Marks: Race, Culture, Architecture" (University of Minnesota Press, 2000) and has been an on-going contributor to discourses around identity, ‘race’, African urbanism and the speculative nature of African architectural space for almost twenty years.

Image: House Lokko. Completed July 2005, Accra, Ghana. Photo by Lesley Lokko.

For more information on the exhibition, Architecture of Independence: African Modernism, click here.



Afronauts with Frances Bodomo and Jacqueline Stewart
Frances Bodomo and Jacqueline Stewart
Mar 17, 2016, 6pm

Please RSVP

Join us on Thursday, March 17 for a special screening of the short film, Afronauts, with director Frances Bodomo and film scholar Jacqueline Stewart. Based on true events, Afronauts tells the story of the short-lived Zambian space program and its attempts to join the space race in the late 1960s. Afronauts is Bodomo's second short film and premiered at Sundance Film Festival in 2014. (Total runtime: 14 minutes)

Frances Bodomo is an award-winning Ghanaian filmmaker who grew up in Ghana, Norway, California, and Hong Kong before moving to New York City to study film at Columbia University (BA) and the Tisch School of the Arts (MFA). Her first short film, Boneshaker (starring Oscar-nominee Quvenzhané Wallis), premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and played at over 20 film festivals. Bodomo was named a 2015 Sundance Institute/Alfred P. Sloan Fellow and aspires to make conceptually strong films that bring African images to the forefront. 

Jacqueline Stewart is a professor in the Department of Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Chicago. She is the author of Migrating to the Movies: Cinema and Black Urban Modernity (University of California Press, 2005). Her essays have appeared in Critical Inquiry, Film QuarterlyFilm History, and The Moving Image. She is completing a study of African American actor, writer, and director Spencer Williams. She is co-curator of the L.A. Rebellion project at the UCLA Film and Television Archive. Her film work in Chicago includes founding the South Side Home Movie Project and serving as Curator of Black Cinema House, a neighborhood-based film exhibition venue run by Theaster Gates’ Rebuild Foundation. 

This event is presented in conjunction with the Graham Foundation's current exhibition Architecture of Independence: African Modernism, on view through April 16.

To view the trailer for Afronauts, click here.

Image: Diandra Forrest as Matha. Afronauts. Dir Frances Bodomo, 2014.

For more information on the exhibition, Architecture of Independence: African Modernism, click here.



Thomas Ankersmit
Lampo Performance Series
Mar 12, 2016, 8pm

RSVP Required

Dutch artist Thomas Ankersmit will premiere new work commissioned by Lampo—a composition for analog Serge modular and digital oscillators that combines a blizzard of microsounds with sculptural fields of pure tone. This project is Ankersmit's first significant foray into the digital realm and first fully quadraphonic composition.

Thomas Ankersmit is a composer, musician and installation artist based in Berlin and Amsterdam. Acoustic phenomena such as sound reflections, infrasonic vibration, otoacoustic emissions, and highly directional projections of sound have been an important part of his work since the early 2000s. His music is also characterized by a deliberate misuse of equipment, using feedback and disruptions to the signal, and the extremes of frequency and dynamics, to create visceral but finely detailed swarms of sound. Since 2006 his main instrument, both live and in the studio, has been the Serge analogue modular synthesizer. His recent collaborations include a series of electroacoustic pieces with Sicilian composer and performer Valerio Tricoli; recording sessions with Kevin Drumm at GRM in Paris; and a new Phill Niblock composition for Serge modular synthesizer (Niblock’s first piece for an electronic instrument). Ankersmit has performed twice before in the Lampo series—in February 2012 and September 2008. 

Commissioned by Lampo with the support of the Performing Arts Fund NL. This performance is presented in partnership with Lampo. Founded in 1997, Lampo is a non-profit organization for experimental music and intermedia projects.

Please Note: Seating for this performance is very limited. RSVP is required and event entry is first-come, first-serve, so please plan to arrive early. Doors will open at 7:30pm.



Listening There, Scenes from Ghana
Mabel O. Wilson and Peter Tolkin
Mar 08, 2016, 6pm

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In 2008, Mabel Wilson and Peter Tolkin traveled through Ghana, documenting the architecture that had been erected during the 1950's and 1960's in the decades following the end of European colonial rule.These mid-century buildings were mostly modernist, designed by architects from Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States, Lebanon, Italy and Ghana; they had been reviewed in contemporary architectural publications, as part of a lively debate on what became known as “tropical modernism.” Until recently, the legacy of these mid-century buildings had all but disappeared from the western historical canon; and with their absence we've failed to understand how critical the African continent was to the discourse of modernism. In this talk, Wilson and Tolkin will discuss their project, examining how these buildings have fared in the half-century since their construction and how they function in today's increasingly urban and global contexts.

Mabel O. Wilson
is an award-winning designer and scholar. She received a doctorate in American Studies from NYU and an MArch from Columbia’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. As the Nancy and George E. Rupp Professor at Columbia University's GSAPP, she directs the program for Advanced Architectural Research, co-directs the Global Africa Lab, and is a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Research in African American Studies in GSAS. Her collaborative design practices (KW: a and Studio &) have worked on speculative and built projects. Wilson's scholarly research investigates space and cultural memory in black America, race and visual culture, and new technologies and the social production of space. Her essays have appeared in numerous journals and books on critical geography, cultural memory, visual culture, and architecture. Wilson's recent book, Negro Building – Black Americans and the World of Fairs and Museums, studies how the spaces of world’s fairs, emancipation expositions, and grassroots public museums became sites to imagine Afro-modernity.

Peter Tolkin is the founding principal of Peter Tolkin Architecture. Influenced by his formal education with renowned American artists Allan Sekula and Lewis Baltz and subsequent work as a documentary photographer, his practice speaks to the social and cultural context of a project. With a natural curiosity in the contingencies that impact the conditions of contemporary culture, Tolkin’s seminal explorations as an artist provided the conceptual kernel for an architectural practice that interprets contextual narratives. He received a BA in Art and Art History from the University of California, Santa Cruz, a MFA in Photography from the California Institute of the Arts, and a MArch from Columbia University. Tolkin continues to practice photography as a complement to his architectural work.

Image: Black Star Square, also know as Independence Square, was built to commemorate independence from colonial rule. Accra, Ghana, 1961.



Reflections on the "Architecture of Independence"
Nnamdi Elleh
Mar 03, 2016, 6pm

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The five countries—Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya, Senegal and Zambia—whose modern architectural productions are featured in Architecture of Independence, present the opportunity to examine where the collective and the individual fit in the post colonial era. In his lecture architecture historian Nnamdi Elleh will connect the sociopolitical conditions of the newly independent countries with the modernist buildings erected post-independence. Elleh will address several key questions: Why did these countries fall into different states of violence following the fall of the Berlin Wall, the end of the Cold War, an era that has been seen as the rise of neoliberal economy in the world and in Africa in general? This lecture will draw from the exhibition to explore the challenges facing these countries and different parts of the continent today.

Nnamdi Elleh is associate professor of architecture, history and theory at DAAP, University of Cincinnati. He was trained as an architect and received his PhD in art history from Northwestern University. He was a Fulbright Teaching-Research Scholar at the University of Cape Town, where he studied post-apartheid nationalist inspired architecture in South Africa. His research focuses on modern and contemporary architecture as diverse, multi-centered, regional and localized experiences in different parts of the world. Elleh’s selected books include African Architecture, Evolution and Transformation (McGraw Hill, 1996); Architecture and Power in Africa (Praeger, 2001); and Reading the Architecture of the Underprivileged Classes: A Perspective on the Protests and Upheavals in Our Cities (Ashgate, 2014).

image: Photomontage of Bernard Nivert and Robert Boy’s Building for the Fund for Stabilization and Support of Agricultural Produce Prices (CAISTAB), 1970, Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, featuring the country’s primary agricultural produce. Originally published in the national magazine Fraternité Matin, November 1981.

For more information on the exhibition, Architecture of Independence: African Modernism, click here.


Unless otherwise noted,
all events take place at:

Madlener House
4 West Burton Place, Chicago
Please note that the galleries are closed for installation. Normal gallery hours will resume after May 18.

Directions to Madlener House


Events are held in the ballroom on the third floor which is only accessible by stairs.
The first floor of the Madlener House is accessible via an outdoor lift. Please call 312.787.4071 to make arrangements.