The organization that is the beating heart of Chicago’s architecture scene opens a new home today. The Chicago Architecture Center will open later this morning at 111 East Wacker Drive.
It’s the new home for what used to be called the Chicago Architecture Foundation. The Foundation has been a long-time resident of 224 South Michigan Avenue, the old Railway Exchange Building. That building housed the organization’s gift shop, and a very popular diorama of downtown Chicago.
The move takes the foundation — now known as the “Chicago Architecture Center” — from a classic D.H. Burnham & Company-designed building to one by Mies van der Rohe’s office, so there is no loss in architectural street cred.
The new location on Wacker Drive is much larger — filling 20,000 square feet of space. It was designed by hometown heroes Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture (AS+GG). The design takes advantage of the space’s location and height above the main street grid to give visitors a magnificent view of Chicago’s Michigan Avenue/Chicago River architecture petting zoo through 40-foot-tall windows on the second floor.
The second floor also has a number of models of famous skyscrapers from around the world. And we all know how much people dig architecture models.
Of course, the city’s favorite architecture model is the downtown diorama, which is on the ground floor. It’s been enhanced by lighting effects, and expanded to 3,000 buildings. Unfortunately, this is no longer something visitors can see for free, since it’s not in a public building lobby. You’ll have to cough up some clams to see this old friend.
But those are clams well worth coughing, if you’re an architecture fan. Admission is $12 for adults, $8 for students, and free for members and the under-five crowd.