Hector Duarte Pilsen

The basic and wonderful premise behind Open House Chicago is that Chicagoans and visitors should have a long, luxurious weekend open to peeking inside a cornucopia of structures around the city.

This year, 150 buildings will open their doors to the general public on October 18 and 19 from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. (check hours for each specific site before venturing forth) at no charge. Of course, you can wander on over to Frank Lloyd Wright's Emil Bach House and other gems, but why not check out a few lesser known locales?

Get your camera ready and come on out to check out my three top picks for this amazing weekend. 

In Pilsen, a Marvelous Mural and More

Tucked on the corner of Cullerton & Wolcott in Pilsen is the fabulous home of artist Hector Duarte (pictured above), who's been a part of Chicago's vibrant public art scene for decades. On Saturday and Sunday you can stop by and check out his studio, meet Duarte, and also get up and close and personal with his remarkable "Gulliver in Wonderland" mural, which depicts the struggling Mexican immigrant as Gulliver.

After stopping by, you must also wander over to the National Museum of Mexican Art, which is just a block away. I'd be remiss if I also didn't recommend a jaunt over to Nuevo Leon, which is just a 10 minute walk away at 18th and Laflin. Great mole, fine tacos, and a nice place to have lunch. 


Get Chilly South of the Midway

South Campus Chiller Plant

Don't worry, this site isn't a place to experience a memory of Chiberia past. As it happens, this, is the University of Chicago's South Campus Chiller Plant.  It's a simply remarkable stainless steel and concrete clad wonder from the mind of Helmut Jahn. Of course, Jahn's work includes the State of Illinois Building in the Loop and hundreds of other projects around the world. 

Visitors will get a chance to learn about the building works to convert electricity into chilled water for cooling nearby university buildings. Also, curious travelers can look closely at the brightly colored industrial interior of this building. 

It's fun to contrast this structure with the nearby Steam Plant Power Plant, which would be right at home as part of the backdrop for one of the recent Batman films. While this building is not open as part of Open House Chicago, you're welcome to walk by.


A Castle For Urban Dwellers in Rogers Park

Park Castle

If you have ever wandered by the grand crenelated glamorous wonder in Rogers Park that is the Park Castle Condonimums and wondered "How do they live?", now you can find out. Designed by noted architect Jens J. Jensen in 1925, this elaborate apartment complex has a number of lovely design touches, including a simple gorgeous indoor pool with a fountain and a positively sybaritic feel. 

Folks with a social media bent should remember to tag their photos using #ohc2014 and they can also learn more about all of the special programming (including events designed for children over the weekend right here.

Photos Courtesy of Eric Allix Rogers