The Chicago Architecture Foundation has moved to a perfectly placed space on Wacker Drive across form the Chicago River and near the starting point of its famed Architecture Boat Tour.
Called the Chicago Architecture Center, the space is more than a good place to pick up tickets for the boat or other tours previously stamped CAF, now CAC.
See the Chicago City Model
On the main floor is the start of a two-level exhibit that contains a room-long model of downtown Chicago basically from the South Loop up to Lincoln Park.
Filled with more than 4.200 buildings that do more than just sit there looking pretty, the city model tells stories.
Watch the movie
You will see the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 from where it started to where it spread during a seven-minute movie across a backdrop screen. It’s not merely on the screen but also across the model buildings lit up in red.
You also learn a bit about what the downtown looked like, where it expanded, what was built out onto the lake and where individual important buildings, roads and structures are when highlighted in white or blue.
Try the interactive screens.
Don’t worry if you didn’t catch all of the Great Chicago Fire sequence. There are interactive consoles on each side of the model city where you can press buttons to see what was highlighted and more.
The model city is fun to see as are locating buildings and exploring through the interactive buttons.
Browse the rest of the Chicago Gallery
The downstairs gallery also includes the who (Architects Who Shaped Chicago), why (Chicago’s Building Blocks that distinguish Chicago from other cities, where (“Seeing Chicago Neighborhoods”), what (“At Home in Chicago”on housing types) and how (“Making The Model” through 3E printing) that has architecturally impacted the city to date.
Spoiler Alert: It’s hard not to ooh or aah when walking into the Drake Skyscraper Gallery. Models of skyscrapers you’ll recognize such as the John Hancock Center and others you will likely want to see someday fill the room in the “Building Tall” exhibit.
Plan on spending enough time to see all the important international models of structures that already exist or are in the planning stage. Also look up in the corner by the window at “Race to the Top” for the tallest structure. (It starts downstairs and continues to the ceiling of the upstairs gallery.
The glass upstairs allows for terrific views of the buildings on the north side of the Chicago River. The view even has the name “Out The Window.”
There is so much to see that visitors should allow at least an hour. Not mentioned here are sections on Chicago’s Skyscraper Architects, technological advances enabling taller buildings and Chicago in 2050.
Stop at the store
Don’t miss the CAF Store to find books, interesting jewelry and other architecture-themed items. So figure at least an hour and a half for your first visit to the Chicago Architecture Center. You’ll want to come back.
The Chicago Architecture Center is at at 111 E. Wacker Drive. For CAC’s programs and tours visit Architecture.org.