The 9th Annual Open House Chicago (O.H.C.) is this weekend (Saturday, October 19, 2019 and Sunday, October 20, 2019). Sponsored by Wintrust, this is an opportunity to explore 350 of the city’s architectural treasures for free. The Chicago Architecture Center (C.A.C.) organizes the O.H.C. There are more than 300 O.H.C. sites in Chicago and the inner-ring suburbs, including 140 new sites in 2019 (or at least there are 140 sites in O.H.C. this year that were note open last year, as some of them may have participated in previous years).
Last year, over 100,000 from all over the U.S.A. and around world participated in O.H.C. They made over 366,000 visits. They made an economic impact of $7,300,000. Of the locals who participated, 93% said Open House Chicago made them proud to be Chicagoans.
“Chicago Architecture Center’s Open House Chicago showcases buildings that tell the stories of our city’s past and highlights the work residents do to preserve their communities’ rich histories,” stated Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot. “Open House Chicago will narrow the gap between neighbors, bringing people and organizations together for a civic dialogue that creates a brighter future for Chicago.”
“The ninth annual Open House Chicago is our gift to this city. We’re excited for all Chicagoans to ‘choose their own adventure’ and explore new communities and experience the rich diversity that lies within the 38 neighborhoods included in OHC 2019,” stated Lynn Osmond, President and C.E.O. of the C.A.C. “We’re also inviting people to discover the new galleries at the Chicago Architecture Center for free on October 19 and 20. Chicago’s intrepid urban explorers who love our annual celebration of Chicago neighborhoods will discover that same authentic Chicago experience in our Chicago Gallery, home to the famous Chicago Model and skyscraper exhibits.”
The City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events and the League of Chicago Theatres have designated 2019 as the “Year of Chicago Theatre” and to celebrate, O.H.C. will showcase dozens of related venues downtown and throughout the city’s neighborhoods. These include Broadway In Chicago’s James M. Nederlander Theatre, which Rapp & Rapp designed as a motion picture palace in 1926; The University of Chicago’s new Green Line Performing Arts Center, designed as “an economic and creative catalyst for the Washington Park neighborhood;” The Second City (Chicago), the world-famous center of improv (improvisational) comedy training and performance located in Old Town. It will also include a preview of Guild Row in Avondale. According to the C.A.C., “Guild Row in Avondale… [is] a new campus expected to open in 2020 that is transforming industrial buildings into a member-driven makerspace with a touch of spectacle from the former artistic director of Redmoon Theater.”
For the first time this year, Irving Park, Jefferson Park, and Portage Park in northwestern Chicago will be part of the O.H.C. The buildings in question are Carl Schurz High School and the Irish-American Heritage Center in Irving Park, The Copernicus Center (formerly Gateway Theater) and Eris Brewery & Cider House in Jefferson Park, and Our Lady of Victory Roman Catholic Church in Portage Park. For a full list of buildings and other sites, listed geographically by community area (in alphabetical order), click here.
After twenty-five years in the historic Railway Exchange Building at 224 South Michigan Avenue, the Chicago Architecture Foundation (C.A.F.) moved last year to One Illinois Center at 111 East Wacker Drive, near Wacker’s intersection with Michigan Avenue, where it opened the Chicago Architecture Center (C.A.C.) on Friday, August 31, 2018. [For the purposes of engaging with the public, the Chicago Architecture Foundation is the Chicago Architecture Center the way the Chicago Historical Society engages the public through the Chicago History Museum and the Chicago Academy of Sciences engages with the public through the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.] They moved from a building designed by D.H. Burnham & Company to a building designed by The Office of Mies van der Rohe that opened in 1970. Due to Mies van der Rohe’s death, his partner Joseph Fukijawa oversaw its completion. Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture designed the new C.A.C. space.
The C.A.C. will waive its $12 admission and open its doors for free from 10 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. each day of Open House Chicago. Visitors of all ages are invited to check out the C.A.C.’s signature exhibits including the Chicago Gallery and Drake Family Skyscraper Gallery. In the Chicago Gallery, the 3D Chicago City Model Experience features 4,200 model buildings and interactive elements that tell stories of the city. A film and light show illuminate the model with the story of Chicago’s early growth, its rebirth after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 and its ever-changing skyline, which includes some of the world’s first skyscrapers and iconic modern towers made of steel and glass. Interactive touch screens around the 3D Chicago City Model Experience allow visitors to orient themselves to Chicago, search for buildings by architect or architectural style, and see data projected on the Chicago City Model. Located on the second floor of the C.A.C. in the Drake Family Skyscraper Gallery, the Building Tall exhibit is filled with supersized scale models of famous skyscrapers from Chicago and around the world.
Especially for young O.H.C. visitors, a special Family Festival at Millennium Park’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion will offer a behind-the-scenes look at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion designed by architect Frank Gehry. During the Family Festival, children ages six-to-twelve will learn how the Jay Pritzker Pavilion’s sculptural curves and twists project sound from the stage to the audience–plus there will be an opportunity to design one’s own sculptural structure. Families are invited to attend 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. both days of O.H.C.
Most O.H.C. sites are free and do not require a reservation, but participants are encouraged to sign up online to receive event e-newsletters and last-minute announcements. Get the latest news about O.H.C. by following the C.A.C. on Twitter (@chiarchitecture) and Facebook (facebook.com/chiarchitecture). In addition to free access, O.H.C. offers activities at various sites all weekend long, including cultural performances, family festivals and more.
Certain O.H.C. sites require advance registration (usually due to security or capacity constraints) and will not accept drop-in visitors. This year, the C.A.C. is partnering once again with TodayTix to manage booking for most R.S.V.P.-only sites, which includes lotteries for the most sought-after and limited-capacity sites. TodayTix charges a small processing fee for most R.S.V.P.-only site bookings. Registration for these sites and lotteries opened on September 10th, and full information is available on the Open House Chicago Website.
One can become a C.A.C. member at openhousechicago.org/membership to receive a Priority Access pass, which gives exclusive access to Members Only sites and the ability to skip the lines at busier O. H.C. sites. Open House Chicago is a celebration of Chicago’s neighborhoods and communities with over fifty community partners helping make the event each year. The Open House Chicago Community Partners for the Northwest Side expansion include the Six Corners Association and Northwest Chicago Historical Society.
Last year, Wintrust became the Presenting Sponsor for O.H.C. and will hold this position through 2020. Additional support comes from the National Endowment for the Arts, ComEd, TAWANI Foundation, and D.C.A.S.E. (the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events). O.H.C. partners include Choose Chicago, the Chicago Transit Authority (C.T.A.), and Open House Worldwide. Media sponsors include Chicago Magazine, the Chicago Tribune, and WBEZ 91.5FM/Vocalo.org.
Open House Chicago is part of a worldwide movement of free open house events that began in London twenty-seven years ago in 1992. Today more than fifty cities worldwide hold similar weekend festivals. Open House Chicago is the second-largest event of its kind in the world.