The inaugural Chicago Architecture Biennal is not just about the ‘new’, and the present and future of architecture; it is also a celebration of the North American city’s iconic existing building stock. The reopening of the Stony Island Arts Bank during the Biennal's launch festivities is a case in point.

Built in 1923 to a design by William Gibbons Uffendell, the bank was once the heart of a vibrant Chicago neighbourhood, but had in recent years fallen into disrepair. Enter artist, urban planner and Rebuild Foundation founder Theaster Gates Jr, who is behind the building’s makeover and relaunch this weekend.

The newly restored Stony Island Arts Bank is part of the non-profit Rebuild Foundation’s ambitious program in the area and is set to become a beating heart for the local community once more. 

Acting as an exhibition and events centre, and a multi-disciplinary platform for art, architecture and black culture, the space opens to the public with an installation by Portuguese artist Carlos Bunga. Apart from temporary shows, the centre will also house a collection of more than 60,000 glass lantern slides from the University of Chicago and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, as well as the late producer and DJ Frankie Knuckles’ vinyl collection.

'This is a new kind of cultural amenity, a new kind of institution – a hybrid gallery, media archive and library, and community centre', says Gates. 'It is an institution of and for the South Side – a repository for African American culture and history, a laboratory for the next generation of black artists and culture-interested people; a platform to showcase future leaders, be they painters, educators, scholars, or curators.'