SAIC's "Realizing Chambord" at the Summer 2019 Utopia at Work Exhibition in France

"Realizing Chambord" was created for the 500th anniversary of the beginning of construction for the Chateau de Chambord in 1519 and will be exhibited as part of the Utopia at Work exhibition at Château de Chambord from May 26th to September 1st, 2019.

On May 25th 2019, Jade Boudreaux and Odile Compagnon will represent SAIC’s department of Architecture, Interior Architecture, and Designed Objects at the grand opening of the Chateau de Chambord’s anniversary exhibition. With two of the "Realizing Chambord" students: Charlie Miller and Nicole Vendelin, Jade and Odile will present the team’s project at a symposium of all invited 18 schools.

Located in the Loire Valley of France and designed as a hunting lodge for King Francis I, Chambord was never completed as originally intended. "Realizing Chambord" will be part of an exhibition curated by Dominique Perrault and featuring work by 18 international architecture schools, including the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC). Students from around the world have been asked to imagine the future of Chambord while considering the overarching concept of utopia that is deeply embedded in the chateau's creation and history. 

SAIC's "Realizing Chambord" project tells a story that was imagined over the course of a six-week summer studio by a multi-disciplinary group of students. It follows the journey of a vessel, similar to Jason's mythical ship, The Argo, as they travel through the perpetual loop of a utopian society they cannot fully command: they try, they succeed, they fail, and they try again.

Taught by Odile Compagnon and Jade Boudreaux. Created by Lina Alsharif, Siddharth Babani, Charlie Miller, Nicole Vendelin, and Chun Zeng. Contributions by Sarah Aziz and Julian Flavin. Videography by Daniel Caven. Sound by Theodore Braziunas. 

About the Realizing Chambord Summer 2018 Course

AIADO 4956 July 9th to August 17th, 2018
Mondays and Wednesday (9:00am-4:00pm) + Tuesdays (6:00pm-9:00pm)
Faculty: Odile Compagnon and Jade Boudreaux

Lines, Words, or Numbers: Which Does Utopia Require Most?

With this question, we invite you to enter a reflection on the ultimate future of a historic monument: the Château de Chambord at Chambord, Loir-et-Cher, France and to participate in an exhibition: “Chambord Inachevé,” which will mark the 500th anniversary of its construction.

The Domaine National de Chambord and the office of Dominique Perrault Architect, who will curate the exhibit, has invited twenty architecture schools, worldwide, to propose a speculative vision for the monument, utilizing the concept of Utopia, which was essential at the time of its development. 

The School of the Art Institute of Chicago has responded to this invitation and proposed a 3 credit elective multidisiplinary summer studio. In this studio, we explored a forward-thinking response not only to address the fundamental values set forth by Renaissance thinkers, but also to demonstrate SAIC’s position in imagining the world of tomorrow, through drawing, storytelling and computing. We discussed questions such as the role of architecture in representing fictional narratives, past present and future intersections between art, science and philosophy, and the importance of buildings in political discourses. The studio produced, collectively, the 2D, 3D and 4D deliverables for the exhibition: a series of 20 digital images and one short film.

Entries from the Realizing Chambord Studio Journal

After just two weeks into the Realizing Chambord Studio and hours of research, translations from the French, drawings of numerous roofs and chimneys, and conversations about Utopia, we are only beginning to see the spark of what we will submit for the 500th anniversary exhibition of the Chateau. Mid-Review is this Tuesday. We will be moving faster from now on. No more of the spinning heads and random mouse clicks that Charlie Miller described in the storyboarding of his impressions about Chambord.

We must now decide between optimism and pessimism, historicism or futurism, environmentalism or formalism, dukkha or sukha, skepticism or cynicism, adding or erasing. We have 440 rooms to deal with, 282 chimneys, 84 stairways (mostly spiral ones), 13000 acres, 127 inhabitants.

At the end of the day, one thing comes out strongly, it is endless motion: Of Chun Zeng’s orbiting Chambord pieces and of letters from Nicole Vendelin's new alphabet inspired by Geoffroy Tory 16th century Champ Fleury.

More to come. 



We made great progress last week. We now have Argo. We thought we had discovered it, but in fact Roland Barthes had already described it as “an object with no other cause than its name, with no other identity than its form.” We have Argo’s nauts, explorers like us who glean truths and lessons in the historical building. We have time (well, not really) and space. And we know that what goes up must come back down (or does it?). The team is drawing, composing, and by Tuesday for our next review, we will have all the pieces of puzzle. Everything will be a lot easier from then on.

Chun Zeng’s orbiting Chambord pieces

To better understand the spirit of the Renaissance, the class took a field trip to the Newberry Library.

There, Chris Fletcher told us the stories of three different Books of Hours, the prayer books that represented the “popularization for the nobles” of what in the early middle ages could only be said by the clergy. The one which interested us most, that of Geoffroy Tory published in 1525, stood in the center between the 15th century manuscript and a 1549 second edition. Just as in the Chateau de Chambord, you could see that the designer’s pure classical aesthetic marked a turning point from the medieval hand drawn scrolls and illuminations, only to be forgotten in the later edition when the master was dead and purity of style made way to a more popular vernacular. The book and the chateau stand in the crossfire between the desire of one and the realization by many. 

On August 6th, Michael Golec came to speak about his work on Geoffroy Tory’s Champ Fleury, a book in which the 16th century humanist and printer presented a new typeset meant for the new machine age, based on the proportions of the human body. We drew parallels between the chateau and the book as Michael explained the relationship between the original 1525 book and its early 20th century English translation by Bruce Rogers. According to Michael, Bruce Rogers' ambition was to bring Tory’s work to the true machine age and create what Tory would have wanted if the advancement in print making had been more developed.

We ask, did Tory anticipate these developments when he made his famous book? Did the designers of Chambord anticipate the 3D printing we are making with the drawings today? Should designers focus on what past designers could have done if they had the technology we have today or should they design in anticipation of the technologies to come? Will there be a time when those two perspectives will merge?

Michael thinks we are close and compares it with riding a bicycle - going forward while being able to pedal backwards because the speed of the bike is great enough.

Thank you Michael for the insight.

This was a most interesting/challenging class. Thank you to the team for producing such beautiful drawings and deep thinking. What we discovered and exposed is very important and can change, in a positive way, the perception one might have about the role of architects and the practice of architecture. Making a building we have never really seen become an actor in the narrative we created as well as a trigger for thinking about history, culture, and science. The experience we have had these past 6 weeks is marvelous and very unique. If we are so opposed to the idea of this class being repeated, it is not just because of the chateau’s unique anniversary, it is because of the uniqueness of the group we formed. The presentation was a true example of the cohesion that we have managed to build. After the presentation in English, another presentation was given in Chinese with the same effect of giving the audience so much serenity that it took them a while to actually know what to say. This wasn’t fantasy or dream, it was hygge. Exceptional and tough. Thank you for the hard work and for the performance.