• Pollen – The UIC/SoArch Journal
    Rodrigo (Igo) Kommers Wender and Florencia Rodriguez
    UIC School of Architecture, 2023
    University of Illinois at Chicago-School of Architecture

Thomas Kelley, Shantel Blakely, Paul Preissner, and Florencia Rodriguez at the “This is Not Contemporary” conference March 16–17, 2023, University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) School of Architecture. Courtesy UIC/SoArch

Pollen The UIC/SoArch Journal is a yearly publication that launches ideas and conversations happening within the school into the world in an expedient and compelling print format. It capitalizes on the school’s public program not to repackage the work of students and faculty (visible via other channels) but to open the conversations happening at the school to wider audiences. Its editorial approach is to assemble distinctive voices and encourage their interaction, even debate, particularly around a topic defined as the “dossier” of each issue. These dossiers align with significant events happening at the school each semester. In the inaugural issue, spring 2023, the dossier will center on This Is Not Contemporary, a March 2023 conference inspired by Giorgio Agamben’s interpretation of contemporariness as a way of adhering to time through disjunction and anachronism. Participants in the conference—including Zehra Ahmed, Paul Andersen, Kelly Bair, Shantel Blakely, Esther Choi, Ignacio Galán, Stewart Hicks, Andrew Holder, Mariana Ibañez, Thomas Kelley, and Paul Preissner, among others—will each contribute a text. Commissioned written and visual contributions will complement the dossier, confronting these texts with historical contextualization, sharp criticism, and design speculations from students and faculty.

Florencia Rodriguez is director of and associate professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) School of Architecture. Having practiced mainly as an editor, writer, and educator, she has built a career path driven by a strong entrepreneurial spirit that led her to create and run cultural initiatives related to architecture and design. In 2010, Rodriguez founded PLOT, a publication she continued to direct until 2017 when she cofounded NESS with Pablo Gerson. From that platform, she has edited books and organized events committed to the dissemination of new narratives, the exploration of alternative forms of design criticism, and discussions about the contemporary role of design. In 2015 she created Monte, an independent space in Buenos Aires where she curated and promoted a very active public program. Before coming to UIC, she was a lecturer in architecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, where she was granted the Loeb Fellowship between 2013 and 2014. During that year, she focused her research on new modes of criticism and the architecture of the Americas. Rodriguez has lectured, curated exhibitions, acted as a juror, and organized international symposia in different institutions. She has received awards for her editorial work and published several articles in books and specialized media such as Domus, Oris, summa+, Arquine, A+U, and Uncube. In 2020, together with Mark Lee, she guest-edited America, the 48th issue of the Harvard Design Magazine. Her more recent book, MCHAP 2 Territory & Expeditions (IITAC, Actar, NESS), was launched in March 2022. She is currently working on two new titles: New Latin American Design and Why Bother? A Critical/Editorial Manifesto in the Age of Dispersion.

Rodrigo (Igo) Kommers Wender is assistant director for events and publications and visiting professor at the UIC School of Architecture. He is also editor-in-chief of Pollen. He has worked primarily as an editor, writer, and cultural producer in the fields of architecture, design, and art, understood not only in terms of their formal and disciplinary attributes but also in terms of their intrinsic relationships with the broad and complex system that shapes the cultural fabric of our societies. With a background in publishing and content creation, from 2018 to 2023, he was editorial director of PLOT, the architecture magazine edited and designed in Buenos Aires and one of the leading publications of the discipline in Latin America. As editor-in-chief, he was responsible for leading the project to publish PLOT in Brazil, driven by the desire to continue broadening horizons and creating new spaces for the discussion of practices and thoughts that are part of the cultural field of architecture. He has edited books, given courses and lectures, and acted as a juror in various universities.

Founded in the late 1960s in the only public research university in Chicago, the School of Architecture at University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) has historically been defined by its committed understanding of architecture as a cultural practice. That implies that architecture is not only a defined field with intrinsic rules and specificities, but also one immersed in a network of manifestations, actions, philosophies, and conjunctural representations of who and how we are in the world today. In times of radical change, we share the commitment to fill education with meaning, inquiries, experiences, and thoughts that will allow our students to project possible futures. That is why we believe in a generalist approach to professional education; fostering critical thinking, theoretical speculation, open-ended experimentation, and a “we-can-make-it-happen” mindset. Because of the role of the UIC School of Architecture in contemporary debates and its position in Chicago, it is a potent cultural hub. Lectures, publications, panel discussions, workshops, fabrication labs, networking with active practitioners, and a renowned faculty that offers a diverse range of original and stimulating studios and seminars, make it an exceptional environment for the personal growth required to enter a competitive professional world.