Chicago Architecture Center Tour Guide
Interactive exhibits feature famous designers associated with Chicago, including Daniel Burnham, Louis Sullivan, and Frank Lloyd Wright. The Me to We gallery explores the future of cities around the world and what it means for buildings, infrastructure and people. “By 2050, 70 percent of the world’s population will live in cities,” says Osmond. “We will go from individuals to collectives. “
An exhibit of vernacular architecture – the bungalows, Victorians, and two-unit apartments seen in Chicago’s neighborhoods – helps you orient yourself to the city’s varied looks before embarking on one of the 85 unique guided tours of the CAC. This includes the 90-minute guided walk on the Chicago River. In front of the center, board the The first lady of Chicago tour boat for a fantastic view of the skyscraper canyon, surrounded by landmarks such as the corn cob-shaped marina towers and the white terracotta Wrigley Building.
Most of its other tours require a mile or two walk, but for some you travel by bus or the city’s iconic elevated train, the ‘L’, which puts you on par with office dwellers. and reveals construction details that are difficult to see from the street. You’ll head to the neighborhoods – from the oldest Gold Coast on the north side to Hyde Park on the south side, site of the 1893 World’s Fair – to stroll the streets with guides.
Osmond suggests going out into the neighborhoods and taking one of the city cemetery tours. She recommends Graceland Cemetery on the north side, a resting place for city legends, including retailer Marshall Field and railroad magnate George Pullman, with lavish monuments designed by architect Louis Sullivan and sculptor Lorado Taft. “You can not only see an entirely different neighborhood, but you can also hear the stories of all of the amazing Chicago icons buried there.”
More to see
A visit to the Chicago Architecture Center provides a natural springboard for exploring the region through an architectural lens. If you have multiple days in the city, add these sites to your must-see list.
Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio. While working in Chicago early in his career, famed architect Wright developed his signature Prairie Style, a design school that embraces horizontal lines and organic materials. In the suburb of Oak Park, 12 miles west of downtown, Wright built his home and studio, where he both lived and developed his practice. On a 60-minute ($ 20) tour of this architectural magnet, you can visit both private spaces, including a vaulted children’s playroom and living areas with decorative art glass windows and skylights, as well as the light-flooded drawing room where Wright’s apprentices worked. The house itself, restored to its appearance in 1909, is transitional in style – far from Victorian but not entirely Prairie – but on the blocks surrounding it is an encyclopedic collection of buildings designed by Wright. These include several examples of prairie-style homes, with horizontal bands of stone and cantilevered roofs above leaded glass casement windows, as well as the meditative Unity Temple, a church Unitarian Universalist. On a separate audio walking tour ($ 15), you can explore the area at your own pace. 951 Chicago Avenue, Oak Park
Frederick C. Robie House. Back in Chicago, in the Hyde Park neighborhood of the South Side, visit ($ 20) the interior of this Wright-designed house, completed in 1910, when he was at the height of his powers on the Prairies. On the outside are the overhanging eaves and horizontal bands of brick and limestone for which it has become known. Inside, take a close look at its art glass windows and furniture designed specifically for the space, including chairs, dining tables, and light fixtures (guests have been notoriously urged not to make any changes) . 5757 Woodlawn Avenue South
University of Chicago. Near Robie House, take a self-guided tour of this architecturally significant campus (the university offers a menu in line). The main quadrangle, built in the 1890s, was modeled after the Gothic style of the University of Oxford and does an impressive job of masquerading as England on the south side. Look up to see more Gothic Revival in the Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, with its 72-bell carillon – the second largest carillon in the world, renowned for its summer concerts. Among other interesting sites is the Mansueto Library designed by Helmut Jahn, which is largely underground under a large elliptical glass dome. Architect Rafael Viñoly uses cantilevered roofs to pay a modern homage to the Robie House in the Booth School of Business building.