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Lynn Osmond: Open House Chicago Returns with 200 Locations to Explore

On October 17-18, we’re hosting Open House Chicago, the largest free architecture festival in the city that opens the doors to 200 buildings in 20 neighborhoods for exploration. These are sites that are rarely, if ever, open to the public, and we look forward to hosting this amazing event for the fifth year running. Introducing you to neighborhoods north to Rogers Park, south to Pullman and west to Garfield Park – and so many in between – OHC is truly your guide to the breadth of our city.

OHC continues to be an architectural event that engages the public in experiencing and learning about Chicago’s built environment. We are honored to bring to locals and visitors to Chicago, giving them a reason to explore our culturally rich neighborhoods. We hear from thousands who participate in this annual event that OHC fosters civic pride in neighborhood landmarks and histories. CAF strives to inspire people to discover why design matters, and OHC is the perfect example of how we work to fulfill that mission.

Last year, Open House Chicago attracted more than 75,000 guests from all 50 states and 91 countries around the world! This engagement is testament to Chicago’s reputation as being a world-class city, not only in terms of its architecture, but rich diversity, unique communities and overall design aesthetic. As the birthplace of the skyscraper and home to work of some of the world’s most renowned architects, our urban landscape is among the most creative and historically significant in the world.

Throughout the weekend, visitors will get behind the scenes access to Chicago’s greatest places and spaces, including theaters, historic mansions, private clubs, sacred spaces, schools, professional offices and cultural institutions, among others. By venturing into diverse neighborhoods for self-guided exploration, Open House participants come together to discover how design impacts community and place. 

Not only does CAF staff play a part in organizing the event, but hundreds of volunteers get involved to greet guests at sites throughout the weekend. Our team of docents, who introduce people to city all year long, also get involved by interpreting select buildings. And in order to keep this event free and open to all, we thank our sponsors, donors, government agencies and media partners who give generously to make OHC possible. This year, OHC is presented by Kemper Corporation and the James S. Kemper Foundation. If you’ve ever visited the 41st-floor observatory of The Kemper Building, you know that it offers one of the very best views in Chicago. Here are a few other downtown sites you won’t want to miss:

Chicago Athletic Association Hotel

12 S. Michigan Ave. (enter at 71 E. Madison)
Venture beyond the sumptuous lobbies and popular bars to see distinctive ballrooms and other interesting spaces never before open to the public.

Sky-Line Club

307 N. Michigan Ave.
Nearly 100 years ago, an old ale house from southern England was carefully dismantled, shipped to Chicago, and reconstructed on the top floor of one of the Old Republic Building. Warm up in a cozy fireplace lounge, then visit the open-air terrace with fabulous 360-degree views to one of the city's best-kept secrets.

InterContinental Chicago Magnificent Mile

505 N. Michigan Ave.
See the stunning King Arthur Court and Camelot Room and exquisite elevator lobbies in the historic 42-story south tower of the InterContinental complex. 

Aon Center

200 E. Randolph St. 
Visit the 71st floor and take in 360-degree views from Chicago's third tallest building—the highest site in OHC.

The Rookery

209 S. LaSalle St.
This icon of Chicago's financial district is an indisputable architectural masterpiece. Access the glass-block walkways above the atrium. Then visit a basement vault that is full of architectural fragments from the building.

And there are so many more! Visit openhousechicago.org to see a full list of participating sites and ways to get involved, and keep an eye out for the October 15 issue of the Chicago Tribune where you’ll find a full printed guide to OHC. And if you aren’t a CAF Member, now would be a good time to sign up. In addition to the many valuable benefits you’ll get throughout the year, our members will receive a priority-access pass which lets you bypass long lines at buildings, and exclusive access to special members-only sites.

So get ready Chicago! Just a few more days until the architecture event of the year. See you there!

Lynn Osmond, President and CEO of Chicago Architecture Foundation


Editor's Note: Lynn Osmond is President & CEO of the Chicago Architecture Foundation, and she is also a Chicago Loop Alliance board member.


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