Open House Chicago is coming up this weekend, October 13-14, 2018. Organized by the Chicago Architecture Center, it’s your chance to see some of Chicago’s most popular architecture and hidden gems which are rarely open to the public, all free of charge. With museums, art studios, churches, breweries, urban farms, new and repurposed buildings representing just about every neighborhood on the list, there’s something for everyone. Many visitors will be taking in skyline views from the top of a skyscraper, taking advantage of free admission at the Field Museum, or admiring Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture. But if you’re looking to skip the lines and discover something new, here are a few of our off-the-beaten-path recommendations:
1. Nichols Tower aka The Original Sears Tower
Did you know there was another Sears Tower? Located in the North Lawndale neighborhood, the 14-story tower was once a Sears’ warehouse. Although most of the extensive structure was demolished, the tower still stands. Over the last several years it has undergone an extensive restoration and is now a community center. We visited five years ago in the midst of construction, and climbed all 14 flights of stairs to take in a great, rare view of the city. We’re looking forward to going back this year and seeing the finished product - but hopefully taking an elevator this time!
2. The Plant
This urban farm and food business incubator is located in a former meatpacking factory in the Back of the Yards neighborhood. It’s been exciting to see The Plant expand over the several years that it has been participating in Open House Chicago. Currently, there’s an aquaponic farm fueled by tilapia, a craft brewery, a coffee roastery, and other artisanal food businesses. Learn about their sustainable energy efforts and try the food and drink that is grown and made on site.
3. Aloft Loft
So far, the theme of our list is repurposed buildings, which should come as no surprise - we’re remodeling specialists after all! Here’s another great example - Aloft Circus Arts, a trapeze school, is making great use of a former church in Logan Square. The historic building is a stunning background to watch the students practice - we were lucky enough to see them in action last year and we hope they’ll be showing off their skills again during this year’s open house.
4. Columbian Model & Exhibit Works
This is a must-see for any fan of architecture or model-making. Located on the Near West Side, Columbian Model & Exhibit Works is best known for creating a comprehensive model of downtown Chicago, which includes more than 4,000 buildings. While that particular model is on display at the Chicago Architecture Center, there are many more amazing models to see on site, along with their laser-cutting and 3D-printing technology. They haven’t participated in Open House every year, so make sure you see it while you can!