talk _ Jefferson University

Lecture on “The Good Metropolis” at Jefferson University, College of Architecture and the Built Environment, 6pm, September 21, 2020. 

research _ Award for Creative Activity

The Office of the Vice Chancellor of Research at UIC awarded Eisenschmidt the Creative Activity Prize for the book project Felix Candela in Chicago, 2020.

review _ Good Metropolis

Review of The Good Metropolis in Architectural Record. Daniel Brook writes: “Eisenschmidt audaciously argues that a central tension in modern city-building has gone hiding in plain sight. While architects are by nature control freaks, sweating the details of their artifacts, the space where their creations are housed—the modern metropolis—is, by nature, out of control … All should eagerly tune in to his future broadcasts.”


Lecture tour across Europe in fall of 2019 to introduce and launch The Good Metropolis.


This project investigate historical artifacts that acted “in support of the city” (also the title of the seminar). The students/researchers consulted archives, conducted interviews, constructed diagrams, and produced films in order to narrate the findings. Acting as architectural detectives, the researchers interviewed Denise Scott Brown on the phone, spent time at the Art Institute’s Hilberseimer Archive, discussed Banham with the BBC, and recalled memories on the Transcripts with Bernard Tschumi.

A screening of the sixteen videos took place on April 30 at UIC’s School of Architecture. Special thanks to the critics Penelope Dean, Jayne Kelly, Bob Bruegmann, and Geoffrey Goldberg.


Urban Spielräume exist at the threshold between the building volume and public space, where the city is inhaled into architecture and where architecture extends into the city —where one is infused by the other. It’s the space where architecture opens up to the city and invites alternative inhabitations. A catalog of these spaces from across the centuries became the basis for the drawing of a City of Spielräume, an urban scroll that thematizes the different spatial conditions. Each drawing highlights four precedents and combines these spaces into one urban condition. The first drawing, for examples, blends London’s Lowther Arcade, Paris’s Galerie d’Orleans, Berlin’s Friedrichstrassen Passagen, and Trieste’s Palazzo del Tergesteo–essentially generating an arcade urbanism. Since each example comes with its surrounding buildings, each drawings is also a composite of those cities.


“The Story of an Intersection, or How Early Chicago Became an Urban Laboratory,” Architectural Theory Review, 2018, vol. 22, #2, p. 233-248.

This essay unravels the history of Chicago as an urban laboratory and the way crisis was utilized and even staged in order to project alternative scenarios. It centers on a single photograph of an intersection from 1909, which shows the location saturated with a shocking amount of traffic brought to a standstill. To make visible what commonly remained hidden (the flows and intensities of urban movement), city officials had administered an urban experiment that suspended police presence and regulation in an effort to test if the metropolis could still self-regulate. Using the city as a stage for experimentation that at times pushed it to the brink of collapse, Chicago’s officials perceived their town as an urban test-bed. Injecting this reading into our established historiography reconfigures some of its most prominent narratives: from Sullivan’s Kindergarten Chats, and Burnham and Bennett’s Plan for the city, to the Chicago school of sociology. …


In order to effectively engage the city, the VC studio takes the position that architecture has to move beyond itself, i.e. beyond the one-off building form and towards an architecture of the city. To develop this new kind of urban practice, we studied the existing megalopolis, the largest cities in the world, where urban tensions and inventions are plentiful. And, where best to find illustrations, inspirations, and explanations of such conditions than in one of the most intense metropolises in the world. The studio traveled to the Mexico City, conducted field research on particular urban conditions, learned from these and extrapolate scenarios that can lead to new forms of an urban architecture. The project not only question the individuality of architecture but ask if one could think of architecture as a city-extension, a kind of architectural urbanism that makes the city an offer it cannot refuse.


Mexico City’s dramatic historical evolution, rapid urban expansion, unprecedented population growth, exuberant modernist ambitions, and ever-renewing spatial inventions catalyzed a city that constantly hovers between the forces of the city, the ambitions of architecture, and the ingenuities of the everyday. The original city of Tenochtitlan, built on an island at Lake Texcoco by the Aztecs in the 14th century, was the largest city of the Pre-Colonial Americas before it was occupied by Spanish colonial rule in the 16th century. Subsequently, a new city was built on top of the existing one, effectively doubling the urban network, covering its rivers to become streets, building Catholic churches above Aztec temples, and converting the ceremonial center into the seat of colonial power. Adapting an existing context and inventing a new one seems to be in the ether of the city. After all, today’s Greater Mexico City counts 22 million inhabitants and occupies over 3,700 square miles with half of its architecture built without regulations or permits yet filled with spatial, programmatic, and material ingenuity. The field trip sought to understand this tension: the tension between the formal and the informal, between planned avenues and makeshift markets, between geometric plazas and sinking houses, between colonial churches and ancient ruins.


“This great city of Tenochtitlán is built on the salt lake, and no matter by what road you travel there are two leagues from the main body of the city to the mainland. There are four artificial causeways leading to it, and each is as wide as two cavalry lances. The city itself is as big as Seville or Córdoba. The main streets are very wide and very straight; some of these are on the land, but the rest and all the smaller ones are half on land, half canals where they paddle their canoes. All the streets have openings in places so that the water may pass from one canal to another. Over all these openings, and some of them are very wide, there are bridges. . . . There are, in all districts of this great city, many temples or houses for their idols. They are all very beautiful buildings.” — Hernando Cortés, Tenochtitlán, 1521.

“[Mexico City] is the ultimate world city: ultimate size, ultimate in population, ultimate in threat of paralysis and disintegration, ultimate in the problems it presents …” — Peter Geoffrey Hall, The World Cities Series, 1984.

City of Architectural Fiction

Journal of Architectural Education (JAE 72:1) published the “City of Architectural Fiction” drawing (previously on view at Lisbon Triennale, 2016) as part of the Discursive Image series.

exhibit _ Félix Candela’s Concrete Shells: An Engineered Architecture for Mexico and Chicago

Curating and exhibition design of Félix Candela’s Concrete Shells: An Engineered Architecture for Mexico and Chicago, Gallery 400, University of Illinois at Chicago, January 19 – March 3, 2018 (with research and models originated by Juan Ignacio del Cueto Ruiz-Funes and with contributions by Lorelei Stewart). …


Twentieth-Century Architecture (The Project(s) of Modern Architecture), co-edited with David Leatherbarrow, vol. 4 in The Companions to the History of Architecture, ed. Harry Francis Mallgrave (Malden: Wiley-Blackwell, 2017). A collection of essays on fifty selected projects from the history of 20th century architecture. The volume involves fifty authors and includes my introductions to three of the 6 chapters. …


Lecture, “The City as Visionary Project,” to the Urban Design Program at the Taubman College, University of Michigan, February 3, 2017, 6pm.

talk _ A Rational Conversation

In dialog with Karen Stein and Francesco Marullo on the occasion of the 50thanniversary of Aldo Rossi’s L’architettura della Città, moderated by Thomas Kelley, UIC Architecture, October 26, 2016.

VC News

VC Project featured in UIC News



In Search for an Architectural Urbanism exhibition at The World in Our Eyes as part of the 4th Lisbon Architecture Triennale, Lisbon, Portugal, October 6, 2016 – January 15, 2017.

In Search for an Architectural Urbanism juxtaposes two large-scale panorama drawings of visionary cities in search for new forms of architectural urbanism that are able to navigate the contested but highly productive realms of contemporary urbanization. One drawing, “City of Architectural Fictions,” represents unbuilt but architecturally significant proposals while the other, “City of Urban Facts,” shows built innovations that are largely unknown. In addition, each drawing is supplemented by a catalog that documents the examples that can be found in the drawings — a 400-page catalog on the history of visionary projects on the city and a 250-page catalog on the breath of urban innovation. olhos_exposicao_c_tiagocasanova_19


57_UIC- TopView_ws

The new building for the Visual + Performing Arts Center at UIC is conceived as an “Arts Campus,” a nexus between the different departments of the College of Architecture, Design and the Arts as well as between UIC and the city. As such, the architecture of the center is more than just a building, it becomes an urban platform on which the different constituencies meet. It houses a concert hall, theaters, performance spaces, rehearsal rooms, an art school, gallery spaces, and offices.

A collaboration with Sam Jacob Studio (architecture), Alexander Eisenschmidt (Urban Design), Misha Leiner / CoDe (graphic design), Webb Yates (engineering). …


Collective City exhibition at the 2015 Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism/Architecture in Shenzhen, China, December 4, 2015 – March 1, 2016.

Collective City, explores spatial, organizational, and material ingenuities born out of the forces and pressures of the contemporary city, answered by the architectural amateur, and used by everyone. As such, the exhibition foregrounds an essential terrain instructive for architecture. The examples highlighted here are important to the way the world is built, influential in its capacities to mobilize, and mesmerizing in its strangeness, yet outside the architectural radar. The exhibition documents, organizes, and projects a catalog of existing inventions and tactics found across the globe (often outrageous, sometimes humorous, but always embedded in the here and now) with the ambition to establish a dictionary of ideas that can act simultaneously as a reality-check and sourcebook. We are interested in how the dynamics of global urbanization effectively influence architecture; or to put it more bluntly, how the intelligences of the existing city can be engaged by architecture. From a street-runway intersection in Gibraltar, via the Osaka baseball stadium-turned-model village, to stilt houses in international waters at Biscayne Bay, these examples form a new city that in the exhibition creates a massive urban panorama, describing different forms of architectural urbanism.

1) Collective City, VCP copy

talk _ RIBA TALK

Special guest lecture via live broadcast at the RIBA in London, “Crisis and Chicago’s Speculative Project,” March 8, 2016, 1pm (CST) / 7pm (GMT)


Overall CampoMarzio (low-res)Collective drawing of a “modernist” Campo … the project of architecture as that of the city. (image zoom)

This project revisits the question of the city and who is building it. It asks if architecture can move beyond itself, i.e. beyond the one-off building form and towards an architecture of the city. This, of course, raises a host of questions: How can architecture be effective as a planning device? Is there a scale at which architecture ends and planning begins? And, most ambiguously, is designing a city still possible today?


panoramaA panel on Chicago’s catalytic potential for urban and architectural speculation, convened by Alexander Eisenschmidt and Jonathan Mekinda at the Chicago Cultural Center, Millennium Park Room, 5th floor, 4-6 PM, November 22, 2014. Related to the book and the exhibition at the Art Institute, “Chicagoisms: A City to Speculate?” brings together practitioners to present and discuss ideas on speculative projects for the city. Speakers included Sarah Dunn (UrbanLab), Sean Lally (Weathers), Andrew Moddrell (Port A+U), Stanley Tigerman (Tigerman McCurry Architects), and Frances Whitehead (ARTetal Studio). …


Chicagoisms makes Architecture Boston (AB) List of top books to read in 1914, followed by Koolhaas’ Delirious New York and Wolfe’s From Bauhaus to Our House.

talk _ Visionary at CAF

“A New Visionary;” lecture at the “Instruments for Urban Production” symposium in conjunction with the book launch of The Petropolis of Tomorrow and hosted at the Chicago Architecture Foundation, April 25, 2014, 6pm.


6a) Chicagoisms Exhibit

Co-organizer and curator of Chicagoisms exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago, Kurokawa Gallery, April 24, 2014 – January 4, 2015. Exhibition design by Studio Offshore (Eisenschmidt) in collaboration with graphic designer Matthew Wizinsky.

120 images, nine models, and five principles. The exhibition builds on the premise of the book Chicagoisms. Revisiting the characteristics, attitudes, and mentalities of the city’s past, it mines the history of Chicago to define principles of architectural action and urban engagement: Vision Shapes History, Optimism Trumps Planning, Ambition Overcomes Nature, Technology Makes Spectacle, and Crisis Provokes Innovation. These Chicagoisms are also deployed here as springboards for new experiments as local and international teams of architects conceived visions inspired by the city that project as models from an array of historical imagery, together constructing a panorama of alternative urban worlds.

In collaboration with architectural historian Jonathan Mekinda and graphic designer Matthew Wizinsky, and with contributions by Bureau Spectacular, DOGMA, MVRDV, ORG, PORT, Sam Jacob Studio, Sean Lally/Weathers, UrbanLab, and WW.


Screen Shot 2014-04-03 at 12.24.50 PM

Contributing author and lead-editor of Chicagoisms: The City as Catalyst for Architectural Speculation (Zürich: Scheidegger & Spiess/Park Books, 2013).

Chicagoisms is a collection of essays on the various roles that Chicago has played as a catalyst for the exchange of urban and architectural ideas. In a series of original essays, a diverse roster of distinguished and emerging historians, theorists, curators, and architects explores the different ways that Chicago has influenced the evolution of the architectural discourse in the US and around the world. The book involves 28 authors in a collective interrogation of Chicago as a springboard for architectural and urban speculation. The aim is to instigate a new way of thinking about the city’s influence on the global architectural discourse. Contributions include: a preface by Stanley Tigerman; essays by Penelope Dean, John Harwood, David Haney, Mark Linder, Igor Marjanović, Joanna Merwood-Salisbury, and Albert Pope; project commentaries by William Baker, Barry Bergdoll, Aaron Betsky, Robert Bruegmann, Pedro Gadanho, Ellen Grimes, Sandy Isenstadt, Sam Jacob, Sylvia Lavin, Mark Lee, Andres Lepik, David Lewis, Bart Lootsma, Winy Maas, John McMorrough, Brett Steele, Kazys Varnelis, Sarah Whiting, and Mirko Zardini; as well as my essay, “No Failure Too Great,” a commentary on the circle interchange, entitled “Automatic Urbanism,” and the introduction “Chicago as Idea” (co-authored with Jonathan Mekinda). Published by Scheidegger & Spiess / Park Books, the volume was first presented at the Frankfurt and the Leipzig Book Fair in 2013. It is available in stores worldwide and in the US through distribution by the University of Chicago Press. You can order it here.



Designer and curator of City Works: Provocation for Chicago’s Urban Future exhibition at the City of Chicago’s Cultural Center – Expo 72 Gallery (72 E. Randolph Street, Chicago), May 24 – September 29, 2013.

City Works was previously exhibited at the 13th International Architecture Biennale in Venice (2012) and has now returned to the city of its origin. The exhibition re-envisions a series of urban environments that are typical for Chicago in order to examine alternatives to the way architecture engages the city. In collaboration with David Brown, Studio Gang Architects, Stanley Tigerman, and UrbanLab / Sarah Dunn & Martin Felsen (who each produced one large models 12’x3′), the installation sets out to find potentials for spatial, material, programmatic, and organizational invention within the city. The four models are surrounded by a 160′-long panorama that shows a visionary city … a drawing entirely composed of historical unbuilt visions for the city of Chicago (created by Eisenschmidt and his team at the Visionary Cities Project). In addition, an iPhone app links the visionary drawings on the wall to the existing city by locating the different schemes and presenting vital information about the projects. Over the duration of the exhibition, the models will travel throughout the gallery, visit the different parts of the city’s visionary history, and, finally, come together to create a new collective project of the city – one that is intended as Provocation for Chicago’s Urban Future.


The Visionary Cities Project developed an iPhone app in collaboration with Cheng+Snyder ( This app not only visualizes the large amount of visionary proposals for the city of Chicago but also accompanies the Visionary Chicago Panorama at the exhibition City Works in order to give access to the many projects in the drawing. While the panorama composes a parallel unbuilt city within the confines of the gallery, the iPhone app makes connections to the existing city outside. Here, knowledge about these schemes escapes the gallery and ventures into the city. It allows users to locate and visualize past utopian schemes while traveling through Chicago, with the goal of encouraging playful urban speculation in the present. Download the free iPhone app here.

Book Launch of City Catalyst at UIC

Book Launch of City Catalyst at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago (September 22, 2012, 1pm) and Launch Party at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s School of Architecture (October 5, 2012, 6pm).


AD Cover (Eisenschmidt) copy

Guest-editor and author of City Catalyst: Architecture in the Age of Extreme Urbanization, Architectural Design, # 219 (September/October 2012).

The discipline’s failure to engage the city productively has devastating consequences that simultaneously diminish the role of architecture and trivialize the city. This issue of AD, then, proposes a new architecture–city relationship beyond outright resistance or unconditional embrace. It suggests rethinking the city as a catalytic realm of invention and a space of possibilities. Contributors include: Kunlé Adeyemi/NLE, Edward Denison, Sarah Dunn and Martin Felsen/UrbanLab, Keller Easterling, Daniela Fabricius, Adriaan Geuze/West 8, Sean Lally/Weathers, Jesse LeCavalier, Jürgen Mayer H, Srdjan Jovanovic Weiss/Normal Architecture Office, OMA, Kyong Park, Albert Pope, Michelle Provoost and Wouter Vanstiphout/Crimson, Robert Somol, Ron Witte/WW, Yoshiharu Tsukamoto/Atelier Bow-Wow, and Bernard Tschumi (interview by Alexander Eisenschmidt). Including my contributions: “Stranger the Fiction: A Mission Statement” (introduction), “The City’s Architectural Project: From Formless City to Forms of Architecture,” and “Importing the City into Architecture: A Conversation with Bernard Tschumi” (interview). You can order it here.


Organizer and chair of the international conference on the state of visionary urbanism, in collaboration with and hosted at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, 10am-6pm, September 22, 2012 (over 200 attendees, 3 panels, 15 speakers, 3 moderators). Event is featured in full length at Radio WBEZ-NPR.

Architecture’s failure to engage the contemporary city will have devastating consequences that simultaneously diminish the role of architecture and trivialize the city. This symposium will, therefore, probe architecture’s ability to function once again as urban “vision maker.” After all, architecture and urbanism are by definition visionary; its drawings, animations, and scenarios are always an act of forecasting. They are about something that is not yet – a projective envisioning of a world to come. What at first sight might seem to run counter to the professionalism of architecture and urbanism could, in fact, revitalize these disciplines. Hence, the symposium calls on architects to enter the contemporary city with visions for the immediate urban future.


Chapter “Fantastisches Berlin. Die Entdeckung einer Neuen Metropole,” in August Endell 1871-1925: Architekt und Formkünstler, eds. Nicola Bröcker, Gisela Moeller, Christiane Salge (Berlin: Michael Imhof Verlag, 2012), 326-335; a collection of essays on the works of August Endell. Reviewed in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and Kunstchronik.

6) Gropius, Sehen, 1955 copy




Designer and curator of City Works exhibition at the 13th International Architecture Biennale in Venice, Italy, August 27 – November 25, 2012.

Invited by David Chipperfield, director of the 13th Venice Biennale, Eisenschmidt designed and curated an exhibition that re-envisions a series of urban environments that are typical for Chicago in order to examine visionary alternatives to the way architecture and planning engage the city. The installation is a collaborative effort of 5 teams that involves a large model (12’x12′, produced by David Brown, Studio Gang, Stanley Tigerman, and UrbanLab) of a visionary Chicago as well as an encompassing drawing (100’ long) that creates a visual backdrop. The outside of the screen (produced by the Visionary Cities Project/Alexander Eisenschmidt) is a panorama of a Phantom Chicago, entirely composed of unbuilt visionary proposals for the city. …

essay _ URBAN FORM x3

Review of The Liberal Monument: Urban Design and the Late Modern Project, by Alexander D’Hooghe, Journal of Architectural Education, #65:2 (May 2012): 143-145.

interview _ NON-CONCEPT CITY

“The Non-Concept City,” a discussion on urbanism with Edward Mitchell, including Robert Bruegmann, Ellen Grimes, Tim Mennel, Jonathan Miller, organized by New Projects, Chicago, March 13, 2012. The exchange was published in the Journal of Architectural Education #66.1, October copy


Public lecture at The Arts Club of Chicago, Chicago, February 7, 2012.

Chicago’s visionary unbuilt projects have proved to be of particular importance for the architectural discourse as a whole. The lecture, therefore, investigates some of the most spectacular proposals and asks what makes the city tick as a laboratory of ideas.


“Theorien der Raumanschauung und die Entstehung einer neuen Metropole,” was cited in Matthias Schirren’s article “Freiheit und Ordnung: Der Philharmonie Osteingang,” in Scharoun, exhibition catalog, 2011.


Invited Round table participant at Northwestern University, Chicago, December 3, 2010 (other participants: Barry Bergdoll, Andreas Beyer, Neil Levine, Martin Bressani, Robert Bruegmann, and Harry Mallgrave; organized by David Van Zanten).

conference _ INFORMAL CITIES

Colloquium chair and speaker, in collaboration with and hosted by the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, October 24, 2010 (participating speakers: Daniela Fabricius, Jiang Jun, Jesse LeCavalier). The colloquium is prompted by the exhibition Urban China, curated by Jiang Jun who is editor of the China-base magazine of the same name. The event sets out to detect global perspectives on the informal, not bound to a particular geography, economy, or period but, instead, defining the informal/formless city as a condition that is with us everywhere. It implies that the “informal” is always part of that strange environment we call “city.”

conference _ METROPOLIS

Panel chair at the ACSA West Central Fall Conference Flip your Field, University of Illinois at Chicago, October 21-23, 2010 (speakers included Michael Chen and Jason Lee, Daniela Fabricius, Jesse Le Cavalier, and Neyran Turan).Metropolis Panel


Speaker at the Once Upon a Place – International Conference on Architecture and Fiction, on the occasion of the Lisbon Triennial of Architecture, Lisbon, Portugal, October 12, 2010.


The Formless Metropolis and Its Potent Negativity, University of Pennsylvania, School of Design, Dissertation, 2008.

The dissertation investigates the concept of the “formless” city in the German architectural discourse on the modern Großstadt. It shows how the formless was not only a byproduct of the metropolis and an undercurrent throughout the early twentieth century but that it stimulated the modern architectural discourse and pervaded throughout modernity. …

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