Sou Fujimoto, "Architecture Is Everywhere" Credit: Soohyun Kim

In a whimsical installation of everyday objects from a sink strainer, a badminton birdie, and a clothespin to a handful of potato chips, Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto delights the viewer with architecture that can be found in our daily lives. Inhabited by minute white figures, the subtle curves of a pile of potato chips are transformed into arches and valleys. “It should be possible to make architecture like hills” says the rendering’s legend.

Sou Fujimoto, "Architecture Is Everywhere"
Sou Fujimoto, “Architecture Is Everywhere”Credit: Soohyun Kim

Meandering through the Chicago Architecture Biennial, a labyrinth of detailed drawings, scaled models, prototypes, photographs, and videos, I was struck not by the practical solutions to enduring social, political, and environmental challenges, but by fanciful flights of the imagination—ethereal spiderwebs by Argentine sculptor Tomás Saraceno, a Piranesi circus of ladders, swings, and ramps by Atelier Bow-Wow, a column of rocks constructed by a robotic machine, held together by a single thread.

Tomás Saraceno's spiderwebs
Tomás Saraceno’s spiderwebsCredit: Soohyun Kim

A tiny host of spiders has woven a microscopic universe from gossamer silk in translucent glass vitrines. Unlike a two-dimensional spiderweb spun between the branches of a tree, these three-dimensional nebula were created in a seemingly weightless environment—Saraceno rotated the display cases 180 degrees to confuse the spiders’ perception of which way was up.

Atelier Bow-Wow, "Piranesi Circus"
Atelier Bow-Wow, “Piranesi Circus”Credit: Soohyun Kim

A playground of ramps, ladders, cantilevered balconies, bridges, and a swing taunt the viewer from within the inaccessible courtyard of the Chicago Cultural Center. Trapped behind tinted glass, we can only peer out and allow our imaginations to climb, swing, and somersault in this architectural maze straight out of an M.C. Escher drawing.

Gramazio & Kohler & Self-Assembly Lab, MIT, "Rock Print"
Gramazio & Kohler & Self-Assembly Lab, MIT, “Rock Print”Credit: Tom Harris & Hedrich Blessing

Using the self-aggregating capacities of the material itself, Gramazio & Kohler Research’s “Rock Print” falls apart with the simple pull of a string. A metaphor for something, I’m sure.

Kéré Architecture, "Place for Gathering"
Kéré Architecture, “Place for Gathering”Credit: Soohyun Kim

Inspired by traditional building techniques and materials from his rural village in Burkina Faso, architect Diébédo Francis Kéré has designed a place for people to come together, gossip, and share stories. The modernist woodpile is punctuated by a series of nooks for visitors to sit in.

New-Territories/M4, "Mythomanias"
New-Territories/M4, “Mythomanias”Credit: Soohyun Kim

In New-Territories/M4’s “Mythomanias,” what appear to be ghostly specimens preserved in resin cubes are perhaps ill-fated mutants of some architectural modeling malfunction. The unintelligible wall text further confounds with a description of “psychotic apparatuses,” “schizoid protocols,” and “computer graphic idealization.”

A list by a member of List, a Paris architecture firm
A list by a member of List, a Paris architecture firmCredit: Soohyun Kim

Maybe architects are more absent-minded than the rest of us? One’s to-do list includes “cough,” “pee,” “eat,” “kiss June,” and “do not kiss anyone else.”

SO-IL, "Passage"
SO-IL, “Passage”Credit: Soohyun Kim

In “Passage” by SO-IL, pointed metal arches line a narrow hallway, drawing the eye up with dramatic force. The twisting metal structures are a study in movement, still frames in a motion sequence, alternately slowing down and speeding up.