5 Must-See Sights During Open House Chicago

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Anna Munzesheimer/OHC

Open House Chicago (OHC), now celebrating its 13th year, hosts an architecture and design festival that grants both Chicagoans and tourists the opportunity to explore significant sites throughout the city, many of which are typically inaccessible to the public.

The event kicks off on Friday, October 13, with a launch party at the Chicago Architecture Center (CAC), where visitors can freely explore the Center’s exhibits and purchase official OHC merchandise. CAC members will also receive invitations to an opening night soirée on the 33rd floor of the Willis Tower. The event will feature light refreshments and a performance of an original music piece inspired by the Willis Tower, commissioned by CAC.

This year’s edition introduces over 40 new sites, including the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, the Pullman National Historical Park, and Walt Disney’s birthplace home!

Walt Disney House & Birthplace

A carpenter with a growing family, Elias Disney decided to build a home and put down roots in Chicago. He purchased property on the southwest corner of Tripp Avenue and Palmer Street on October 31, 1891. A year later, Elias obtained a permit to build a two-story wood cottage for $800. Flora, Walt’s mother, drew up the architectural plans and Elias built the house. The Disneys settled into their new home with their two sons, Herbert and Raymond. Shortly thereafter, they welcomed a third son, Roy. Walter Elias Disney was born on December 5, 1901, on the second floor. The family sold the home in 1906 and moved to Marceline, Missouri.

In 1991, Chicago attempted to designate the property as a historical landmark, but the owner fought the designation and won, putting the home at risk of demolition. Today, new owners are working with the City to protect the home and restore it to its 1901 state. On October 14 and 15, visitors will line up outside the Disney House & Birthplace. Twenty people will be allowed inside every 45 minutes for a guided tour.

Mindworks

Mindworks is the world’s first discovery center and working lab dedicated to behavioral science. Visitors are invited to participate in studies that examine the science of human behavior, particularly judgment and decision making, and to experience hands-on exhibits showcasing the powerful, real-world impact of behavioral science. Mindworks was conceived by faculty at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

The space, designed by Kreuck Sexton Partners with exhibit design by Pentagram, was awarded the 2022 AIA Lerch Bates People’s Choice Award in the Community & Cultural category. Meet the Architects: Architects from Krueck Sexton Partners will be on-site to display images and answer questions about the design of Mindworks.

After checking in at the front desk, visitors are free to tour the gallery featuring eight interactive exhibits on fascinating concepts in the science of decision-making. Those who choose to participate in research studies will get an inside look at the testing rooms and earn prizes for helping support science.

Perkins & Will

In 2016, Perkins and Will relocated to the top of the iconic Wrigley Building’s north tower. Their office boasts a flexible event and meeting space, lounge, kitchen, and rooftop terrace that offers stunning views overlooking Michigan Avenue.

Perkins and Will stands as one of Chicago’s oldest and most prolific architecture and design firms, and it also ranks among the world’s largest architecture firms. Some of the firm’s notable local projects include Chase Tower, Boeing Corporate Headquarters, Jones College Prep High School, and Northwestern University’s new Louis A. Simpson and Kimberly K. Querrey Biomedical Research Center and Ryan Fieldhouse and Walter Athletics Center.

Visitors can take guided tours of the firm’s studio space, model shop, and social areas located on floors 16, 17, and 18.

Héctor Duarte Home & Studio

Muralist Héctor Duarte’s “Gulliver in Wonderland” mural covers three sides of his home and studio, making it a frequent stop on public art tours in Pilsen. The mural features a giant, outstretched Mexican immigrant as Gulliver, struggling to break free from the barbed wire that binds him. Duarte’s work, including murals, mosaics, and studio pieces, explores themes of identity, immigration, and freedom.

Duarte, who was born in Mexico, studied mural painting at David Alfaro Siquieros’ workshop, one of the prominent figures in Mexican muralism. Duarte has created more than 50 murals in the Chicago area, and his paintings and prints have appeared in exhibitions at the National Museum of Mexican Art (located just down the block), the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, the State of Illinois Gallery, the Chicago Historical Society, and Casa Estudio Museo Diego Rivera in Mexico City.

Hector Duarte will open his studio and be present to discuss his murals, studio work, and his use of art for education and activism. Inside the studio, visitors can observe a mural in progress.

Avondale Bowl

Updated on October 3, 2023

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