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


Solid Void
Cecil Balmond
SEP 26, 2008 - JUN 20, 2009

Cecil Balmond: Solid Void, an exhibition on the work of Balmond and his London-based Advanced Geometry Unit (AGU) at the international, multi-disciplinary engineering firm ARUP, will be on view through June 20, 2009. The first site-specific installation in the 50-year history of the Graham Foundation’s exhibition program, Solid Void transforms the new galleries of the Madlener House.

According to Cecil Balmond, “Architecture is the experience of form within shape—the rhythm and patterns that organize creativity.”

In Solid Void, Balmond investigates spatial concepts in geometry, numbers and patterns through a large-scale, site-specific installation. Balmond’s interventions are in dialog with the turn-of-the-century language of the Madlener House, a Prairie-style mansion in the Gold Coast of Chicago, and are realized at a domestic scale. The installation H_edge weaves through the first floor galleries—the original living room, music room, foyer and dining room (which, since the 1960s, was used as offices and board room)—is comprised of over 6,000 aluminum leaf-like plates suspended in tension by over 5,000 feet of rigid stainless steel chain. Playing on an age-old Indian rope trick, the labyrinthine construction appears to hang from the ceiling. But on closer inspection, the chain stands up, acting as spinal support. Balmond creates a new, fractal space.

In addition to the installations that run throughout the entire house, the exhibition also includes a visual essay—a series of videos and light boxes that explore Balmond’s work and his thinking on the history of architecture through the themes: Numbers, Geometry, Proportion, Evolutionary Form, Time and Equilibrium.

Cecil Balmond has transformed the role of the engineer in contemporary architecture with his unorthodox and visionary approach that merges architecture and engineering. Born in Sri Lanka and trained as a civil engineer, Balmond is the deputy chairman of ARUP, which he joined in 1968. He founded the Advanced Geometry Unit (AGU) in 2000, a research based practice, which comprises of architects, artists, engineers and scientists, to pursue his interest in the genesis of form using numbers, music and mathematics as vital sources. Under Balmond’s direction, the AGU works to develop new typologies for known building programs, as seen in the Coimbra Footbridge, Mondego River, Portugal (2006), the office building Twist, London (2004), the Battersea Power Station Master Plan, London (1999-2007) and the Ranchi Cricket Stadium, India (2008).

Since the early 1980s Balmond has collaborated with such important contemporary architects and artists working today as Toyo Ito, Anish Kapoor, Rem Koolhaas, Daniel Libeskind and Álvaro Siza. Balmond has introduced innovative structural concepts that have resulted in some of the most challenging buildings in the canon of contemporary architecture. His long standing collaboration with Rem Koolhaas has yielded an array of ground-breaking projects such as the Maison à Bordeaux (1998), the Seattle Central Library (2004), Casa da Musica (2005) in Porto, Portugal and the new CCTV tower under construction in Beijing (2009).

Balmond is the author of Element (Prestel, 2008), Informal (Prestel, 2002), and Number 9 (Prestel, 1998). In 2004, Balmond was appointed the Paul Philippe Cret Professor of Architecture University of Pennsylvania School of Design.


Solid Void, installation views, Graham Foundation, Madlener House, Chicago, 2008. Photo copyright Michelle Litvin