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Open House Chicago this weekend

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Updated: November 13, 2012 6:17AM



Visit mansions, exclusive private clubs, executive offices, ornate theaters, significant architectural buildings and more this weekend (and all for free) as part of Open House Chicago, an architecture festival presented by the Chicago Architecture Foundation.

More than 150 buildings in 13 Chicago neighborhoods will open their doors for this second annual event.

Many are places typically not open to the public.

Some will have guided tours; others will offer talks about the architectural, historic or cultural significance of the site.

Still others will host artists or artistic performances, or children’s activities.

The complete list of sites, along with photos and descriptions, can be found at www.openhousechicago.org. There, you can group the sites by neighborhood or by category and see a map of the locations.

I attended last year’s inaugural event, covering a lot of ground on both days, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Open houses I attended included the council chambers and back hallways of City Hall, and the interesting rooftop garden — complete with a lagoon and waterfall — at Lake Point Tower.

I visited the Bronzeville mansion that once was home to the Swift family (of meat-packing fame) and now houses the Inner City Youth and Adult Foundation.

I saw the work spaces of some of the top architecture firms in the world, and all again will open to the public this weekend.

Besides downtown, this year’s featured communities are South Shore, Hyde Park, Bronzeville, Chinatown, the Prairie District, Pilsen, Little Village, Garfield Park-North Lawndale, Humboldt Park, the Gold Coast, Uptown, and Rodgers Park-West Ridge.

Downtown spaces include buildings designed by luminaries in architecture, including the former IBM Building, the last American project overseen by Mies van der Rohe, a key developer of modern architecture.

The offices of one architecture firm and an engineering design firm will offer tours and programs about their work.

Among the repurposed mansions are the Charnley-Persky House in the Gold Coast, an 1891 effort between Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright, and the 30-plus-room Keith House in the Prairie District, which was Chicago’s most posh neighborhood after the Great Chicago Fire in 1871.

The Foundation Room of the House of Blues is one of the exclusive clubs the public can visit during Open House Chicago. In the offices of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and other architecture firms, visitors can see models of their worldwide projects.

Theaters offering tours include the Louis Sullivan-designed Auditorium Theatre, the ornate Oriental Theatre, and Apollo’s 2000 Theater, described as “one of the few Chicago movie palaces to remain in perfect condition.” Visitors can see the old projection room.

Unique worship sites include Mosque Maryam, the former Greek Orthodox Church that is now the headquarters for the Nation of Islam, the intricate Agudas Achim Synagogue, which is rarely open to the public; the Little Village Buddhist Meditation Center, in a space that was originally for an Orthodox Christian Serbian congregation; and many ornate churches.

Thirteen sites are “family friendly.” They include the rooftop garden of the Uncommon Ground restaurant, the firehouse in Chinatown, and the original 14-story Sears Tower. There will be children’s activities at Clarke House, the city’s oldest structure, and at the Hyde Park Art Center.

This is just a sample of the participants in Open House Chicago, which also includes museums, art and dance studios, a jail and even a funeral home. If you can’t attend, catch interesting tours and talks all year by the Chicago Architecture Foundation. CAF’s fun tours are on foot or by bus, the “L,” boat or bicycle.

Visit the website www.architecture.org for more information.



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