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About Open House Chicago

Have you ever walked by a building and thought, I wish I could see what's inside?

The Chicago Architecture Foundation’s Open House Chicago (OHC) is the city’s annual architecture festival. For one weekend in October you can explore Chicago’s most iconic and unique architectural treasures. From mansions to sacred spaces, theaters to private clubs, hotels to secret rooms—OHC gives visitors a behind-the-scenes look at many of the city’s great spaces that are rarely, if ever, open to the public.

Here’s your chance to venture into new neighborhoods, learn the stories of Chicago’s buildings and experience the diversity and culture of each community.

OHC is completely free-of-charge—no registration or tickets are needed. So gather your friends, plan your itinerary and mark your calendar for October 15-16, 2016!

Stay in the know

  • Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter #OHC2016
  • Subscribe to OHC e-news for the latest announcements and important updates.
  • CAF members receive priority access to OHC sites and special members-only sites. Join today for an enhanced OHC experience and great year-round CAF benefits.

Frequently asked questions

What is Open House Chicago?

OHC is a free annual festival presented by the Chicago Architecture Foundation that offers behind-the-scenes access to more than 200 buildings across Chicago. OHC is part of the Open House Worldwide network of events now spanning more than 30 cities on four continents.

When is Open House Chicago?

OHC is an annual festival held one weekend every October. In 2016, OHC will be on Saturday and Sunday, October 15-16 from 9am-5pm. Times vary depending on specific sites.

Who organizes Open House Chicago?

In 2011, OHC began as a new initiative of the Chicago Architecture Foundation, a non-profit cultural institution that offers tours, exhibitions, programs, and events for all ages. CAF’s mission is to inspire people to discover why design matters.

OHC is organized in partnership with community development and cultural organizations across the city. These organizations provide critical support in such areas as site identification, program development, grassroots marketing, volunteer recruitment and on-site support during the event weekend. OHC is also made possible through the support of sponsors, donors and government agencies.

What kinds of sites are included in Open House Chicago and where are they located?

OHC is a citywide event that includes more than 200 sites located in 20 neighborhoods. The sites in these neighborhoods reflect the cultural diversity and history of Chicago, as well as the unique character of each community.

Locations include private clubs, residential spaces, offices, hotels, theaters and performance halls, design/architecture studios, schools and places of worship as well as manufacturing, cultural and government facilities. This diverse selection of sites allows visitors to plan an itinerary according to their own specific interests. Browse the list of sites or see them on a map.

How do I plan my Open House Chicago weekend experience?

The best way to get up-to-date site information is on this mobile-friendly website. Our (optional) online itinerary planning tool allows you to collect and save sites you plan to visit. Just browse to a site and click the "add to itinerary" button to get started. Visitors can also pick up a printed copy of the OHC Event Guide in the October 13, 2016, issue of the Chicago Tribune. To stay up-to-date on the latest OHC developments, sign-up for our e-news.

Where can I find a printed guide or maps of the locations for Open House Chicago?

The OHC Event Guide includes maps, descriptions and open hours for all participating OHC sites. The printed Event Guide will be included in the October 13, 2016 issue of the Chicago Tribune. Limited quantites of the printed Event Guide can also be picked up at participating locations and at CAF headquarters (224 S. Michigan Ave.) during OHC weekend. A downloadable PDF version of the Event Guide will also be posted on the website starting Thursday, October 13. 

What's the best way to navigate the city during Open House Chicago?

Divvy, Chicago's bike-sharing system, and CTA buses and trains are great modes of transit during OHC. CTA and Divvy work well when used together—take CTA from one community to another, then hop on a Divvy bike to navigate from one building to the next. Many sites are also within walking distance of one another. For sites not located along CTA routes, Metra train service is available. Some OHC neighborhoods have free or metered street parking.

What is a Priority Access pass and who gets to go in the priority line?

OHC volunteers, CAF members, and OHC sponsors/VIPs will receive priority access to all sites. When enough people start to gather at a site—creating the need for lines—two lines will be formed: one for the general public and another, shorter line for volunteers, members and sponsors. To get a Priority Access pass, become a CAF Member or volunteer for OHC.

What's involved in volunteering for Open House Chicago?

It takes over 1,600 Volunteer Greeters to staff every site during OHC. To find out more and sign up, visit the volunteer page

Is photography allowed at Open House Chicago sites?

Most OHC sites do allow photography during the weekend of the event. Check individual listings on the Sites page or in the printed Event Guide for icons that indicate whether sites allow or do not allow photography. You can also use the website's category filters to see a list of locations where photography is permitted or where photography is prohibited. As a general rule, always ask the volunteers or staff at each location before you take photos—sites may have more specific photography policies or instructions. Some sites may not allow tripod photography or videography. 

Is OHC accessible to visitors with disabilities?

All visitors are welcome at Open House Chicago. Most OHC sites are wheelchair accessible. Check individual listings on the Sites page or in the printed Event Guide for icons that indicate whether sites are wheelchair accessible. You can also use the website's category filters to see a list of locations that are wheelchair accessible.  

To request an accommodation due to disability or to learn more information about a specific site’s accessibility, please contact us at Advance notice is encouraged.