Chicago knows architecture - how can we best engage with it? Here are three great organizations that support the education of Chicago architecture in the city.
Landmarks Illinois is the state's voice for historic preservation. While it covers architecture anywhere in the state, a significant amount of the organization's events, lectures and buildings that it serves to protect are located in Chicago and the Chicagoland area. I like to use the website to find out about great exhibits in the area that focus on Chicago history and architecture, as well as buildings that are currently endangered.
The Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, or Graham Foundation for short, has architectural exhibits and a library of architecture books inside a Prairie Style mansion in the Gold Coast. The organization makes project-based grants to individuals and organizations, and they often have their grantees share their projects via presentations open to the public. I particularly enjoy flipping through the books in the library after a presentation as they are an excellent collection of books from around the world, many with stunning architectural photography. And it's always cool to enter inside this beautiful historic mansion. Graham Foundation has a progressive voice in architecture and design, and supports more theoretical, creative and experimental projects.
The grand mother of architecture organizations in Chicago would be the Chicago Architecture Foundation. This non-profit organization has educational initiatives that include exhibits, lectures and a variety of tours led by volunteer docents. All exhibits are free and open to the public at their store at 224 S. Michigan Avenue. Their three-dimensional Chicago model is a permanent exhibit which I like to recommend to people as an excellent orientation to the city's architecture of downtown. They also have a Lego Architecture Studio with landmark skyscrapers built out of legos, and rotating exhibits on contemporary architecture, historic architecture, and city infrastructure. This online exhibit is a very cool way to see the stories behind Chicago's famous landmark buildings.
With these three excellent organizations, you can learn about and support the Chicago architecture you experience as a local or a visitor.