Image courtesy of Tom Harris and the Chicago Architecture Biennial

100 Links: Installation and Book

Buell Center and AD–WO   
November 1, 2023 – February 11, 2024   
Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago, IL  
Invited installation at the Chicago Architecture Biennial  

There is architecture in the simplest of tools. Gunter’s chains and corner mounds are devices that measured and marked vast territories during the colonization of North America. The sixty-six-foot chain, tagged and divided into 100 links, combined decimal and English systems so that 18th-Century surveyors could lay out fields, farms, towns, and, eventually, the Jeffersonian grid. The mounds were dug out from four pits to show where the grid intersected and where plots could be bought. Together, these tools enabled the conversion of earth into land, inextricably linking liberty to property. Any alternative way of being with the world—by indigenous communities who considered themselves as belonging to the lands, not the other way around or by enslaved peoples who invented new  modes of life despite being declared property—were odious obstacles to this brutal dynamic.

“100 links” unsettles the historical and ongoing dynamics of enclosure and dispossession by redefining land not as object, but as relationship. It invites visitors to move beneath sagging chains, amidst wall-mounted tags, and around pits filled with books for the taking. These books unpack the lineage of a paradox that still feeds development today: as soon as any territory is enclosed, new architectures have to be invented to declare land an endless resource again.

To unsettle land today is to reflect on the techniques that sustain this legacy; to find solidarities across history and geography; to heed the work of contemporary abolitionists and indigenists; and to generate robust forms of unlanded freedom. 

Project Leads: The Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture (Lucia Allais, Director) and AD–WO (Emanuel Admassu and Jen Wood, Principals) 

AD–WO Design Team: Katharine C. Solien, Eric Hagerman, Gene Han

Engineering Consultants: Tom Reiner, Axel Kilian

Fabrication: Paul Russell, TheChicagoBlacksmith, Lawndale Forge (Chains); Corcoran Fabrication & Design, Inc. (Beam and Pits)

Book Editing: Maur Dessauvage, Lucia Galaretto, Catherine George Weilein

Book Writing: Eddie Joe Antonio, Aleksandr Bierig, Clarisse Figueiredo, Jacob R. Moore, Jordan Steingard, Spenser Krut, Cecília Resende Santos

Additional Research: Erisa Nakamura, Aaron Smolar, Stephen Zimmerer

Project Management: Catherine George Weilein, Michelle Huynh Chu

Book Design: Marie Otsuka

Book Printing: Lowitz + Sons Inc.


100 Links is made possible by support from:

The Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture at Columbia GSAPP

Elise Jaffe + Jeffrey Brown

Special thanks to the student fabricators and assemblers of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago: Jakki Cafarelli, Rex Zahedi Delafkaran, FÁTIMA, Liangyu Huang, Olayinka Ogunleye, Pablo Lazala Ruiz



Cover Image: Marie Otsuka (right)


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