Architecture tour offers sneak peek into hidden Chicago

Neighborhoods, green buildings get special notice

October 15, 2011

Architecturally savvy people — or those of us who are just a little nosey — can tour sites that are usually off-limits to the public this Saturday and Sunday.

Open House Chicago lets visitors get into more than 130 secret nooks and crannies throughout the city. Organizers tout that participants will be able to stand onstage at Millennium Park’s Pritzker Pavilion, or explore the rooftop garden at Lake Point Tower, a high-rise that looms just off of Lake Shore Drive.

“There's no standard experience here,” said Bastiaan Bouma, the managing director of Open House Chicago. “Every one is unique. Every site is unique.”

Bouma says the tours go far beyond Chicago’s downtown by showcasing changing demographics and points of interest in its far-flung neighborhoods.

In the North Lawndale area, people can go into the former Sears, Roebuck & Co. tower where WLS-AM (World’s Largest Store) used to broadcast. They also can walk by the old Sears Administration Building. In its heyday, it sent out about 35,000 mail-orders a day.

Up in West Rogers Park, visitors can get wrapped in a sari at Sari Sapne. Just a bit east, visitors can see the Emil Bach House, which was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Participants will also have the chance to check out LEED-certified buildings and sustainable designs by following a tour circuit called The Green Trail.

The free tours are self-guided, and people can build their own itineraries online at Open House Chicago’s website. Shuttles run between neighborhood hubs.

This is the first year for Open House Chicago, which was modeled after similar events in other cities.

It’s organized by the Chicago Architecture Foundation. Organizers hope to attract at least 50,000 people, and make this an annual event.

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