The Jungle: Architecture, Production and Logistics of Chicago

Supported by the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts and the UIC School of Architecture

Despite having never visited the city, Chicago was an obsession for Bertolt Brecht (1898–1956). He viewed Chicago as a metropolis built on sheer rationality and steel-frames, grain-silos and financial speculation, infrastructure and industrial monopolies, nomad workers and labor struggles—the material expression of the most advanced forces of capitalism. Brecht adopted such a jungle of asphalt and railways, skyscrapers and speakeasies, primitive drives and frantic activities to stage most of his early plays, as in an analogous Berlin. By dissecting reality “like the mechanism of a car,” Brecht’s theatre rejected any emotional representation of the world, aiming instead to unravel the conditions that produce the world. Life was no longer represented on stage but critically questioned through the play, transforming the passive emphatic involvement of the audience into an active learning experience for the collective awakening. Adopting the principles of estrangement, dialectical theatre, and montage this project rereads the architecture of production in Chicago vis-à-vis Brecht’s works between 1918 and 1930.