111 E. Wacker Dr., Chicago IL 60601
- (312) 922-3432
- (312) 922-0481
The Chicago Architecture Center (CAC) is where the stories of the city begin.
Established in 1966, the CAC has steadily grown to become one of the largest, most well-known and acclaimed cultural organizations in Chicago. Over more than 50 years, thousands of volunteer docents have shared stories of Chicago history and architecture with millions of patrons—residents and visitors alike—while educators engage more than 20,000 young people each year.
A new home for the CAC opened to the public in 2018, located at 111 East Wacker Drive at Illinois Center, where Michigan Avenue crosses the Chicago River and where Fort Dearborn stood from 1803 until the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Designed by Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture, the new Center features light-filled galleries, picture-perfect views, and is just steps from the boat dock for the award-winning Chicago Architecture Foundation Center River Cruise aboard Chicago’s First Lady. The CAC galleries, the CAC Design Store, the ArcelorMittal Design Studio for youth and education programs, and the Joan and Gary Gand Lecture Hall are all available to rent for private and special events.
The Drake Family Skyscraper Gallery highlights Chicago’s longstanding, international influence in record-breaking construction, through super-sized models of skyscrapers from around the globe. The centerpiece of the Chicago Gallery is the Chicago City Model Experience, expanded in its new location from 1,300 to more than 4,200 detailed, miniature buildings. Additional temporary exhibits enliven and refresh the Orientation Hall, Chicago Gallery and Usher Lambe Rotating Gallery throughout the year, with neighborhood spotlights and big ideas for cities of the future.
Proceeds from admission and tours, the CAC Design Store, grants, sponsorships and generous donations all support the educational mission of the CAC.
The CAC offers more than 7,000 departures each year for 85 unique boat, bus, bicycle, “L” train and walking tours. Led by expert volunteer docents and available year-round, these tours rotate seasonally and cover a wide variety of city areas, eras and topics—from neighborhood gems, to iconic skyscrapers, to historic sites, to the revolutionary designs of Frank Lloyd Wright. CAC-certified docents undergo extensive training and are passionate about the city and its history. The organization’s flagship tour is the 90-minute Chicago Architecture Foundation Center River Cruise aboard Chicago’s First Lady, named “Best Tour” by the Chicago Reader and rated number one by TripAdvisor users.
Its new riverfront location positions the CAC to maximize visitor engagement with nearly 10,000 square feet of galleries on two floors, filled with content developed in partnership with museum planning and design firm Gallagher & Associates. In the Drake Family Skyscraper Gallery, the “Building Tall” exhibit highlights Chicago’s longstanding, international influence in record-breaking construction, through super-sized models of skyscrapers from around the globe. These include the world’s first skyscraper, Chicago’s Home Insurance Building of 1885; the Willis (formerly Sears) tower, completed in 1974 and the world’s tallest for nearly 25 years; and icons elsewhere like New York City’s Chrysler Building and the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. They’re joined by a regular rotation of intricate presentation models on loan from top high-rise architecture firms such as Gensler, SHoP, Studio Gang, and Zaha Hadid Architects.
The centerpiece of the Chicago Gallery is the Chicago City Model Experience, expanded from 1,300 detailed, miniature buildings in its previous location to more than 4,200 today, updated on a regular basis to preview the city’s ever-changing skyline. This bird’s-eye view of the entire downtown core, a gift of DSM, is activated by projection mapping, interactive touchscreens, and a video tour through the city’s history. Additional temporary exhibits enliven and refresh the Orientation Hall, Chicago Gallery and Usher Lambe Rotating Gallery throughout the year, with neighborhood spotlights and big ideas for cities of the future. On view beginning in April 2020, “Energy Revolution” prompts visitors not just to imagine, but to take action today, toward environmental sustainability and net-zero carbon consumption.
PUBLIC PROGRAMS AND SPECIAL EVENTS
Dozens of programs for adults—available at a discount or for free to CAC Members—are offered throughout the year, drawing thousands of attendees. These include lectures by experts in architecture and design, book talks by acclaimed authors, live interviews with field-leading architects, panel discussions among thought-leaders, exclusive behind-the-scenes experiences and more.
CAC DESIGN STORE
The CAC Design Store is open to the public daily from 9am to 5pm, with or without Center admission, in addition to online at shop.architecture.org. Shoppers can browse and buy a wide range of books on architecture and related subjects, unique home décor and Chicago-themed gifts, accessories and jewelry by local artists, educational toys from LEGO® and other well-known brands, and more.
Chicago Architecture Center
111 E. Wacker
Chicago, IL 60601
Chicago’s First Lady Cruises
112 E. Wacker Dr. on Chicago’s Riverwalk
Chicago, IL 60601