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 13-14, 2018!
Stay in the know
- Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter #OHC2018
- 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.
When is Open House Chicago?
OHC is an annual festival held one weekend every October. In 2018, OHC will be on Saturday and Sunday, October 13-14 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 information about OHC is on this mobile-friendly website. Facebook and Twitter users can use our online itinerary tool to collect and save sites. Just visit a site page 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 Chicago Tribune on Oct. 11. 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 11, 2018 issue of the Chicago Tribune. Limited quantites of the printed Event Guide can also be picked up at participating locations and at CAF headquarters during OHC weekend.
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 are “CAF Members Only” and “RSVP Only” sites and how do they work?
Due to capacity constraints and security concerns, a small number of sites have limited access during OHC weekend. “CAF Members Only” sites are accessible only to participants with Priority Access passes. To get a Priority Access pass for OHC weekend, become a CAF Member or volunteer for Open House Chicago.
“RSVP Only” sites are open to the general public, but only through a limited-capacity online RSVP system that will launch in mid-September. The number of RSVP slots is extremely limited and slots will fill up quickly. Each “RSVP Only” site’s webpage on openhousechicago.org will include a link to an Eventbrite webpage where you can RSVP. Please note that adding an “RSVP Only” site to your itinerary on openhousechicago.org does NOT mean you have submitted an RSVP. Once the “RSVP Only” sites reach capacity they will not re-open and there is no waiting list. Staff and volunteers at “RSVP Only” sites will not accept drop-in visitors.
What's involved in volunteering for Open House Chicago?
It takes over 2,000 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Advance notice is encouraged.
Are there Open House programs in other cities?
OHC is part of a worldwide network of Open House events. Open House started in London in 1992 and launched in the United States in 2002 with Open House New York. Now, more than 30 cities around the world have adopted Open House, creating the first global architecture festival reaching more than 1 million people. For a full listing of Open House cities, visit OpenHouseWorldwide.org. A similar series of programs called Doors Open takes place in Milwaukee, Toronto, Denver, Pittsburgh and several other cities. By most measures, Open House Chicago is the largest event of its kind in the world.