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CAF announces plans for 20,000-sf Chicago Architecture Center to be built on East Wacker Drive

The Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill-designed space will open in summer 2018.

September 08, 2017 |
A rendering of the Chicago Architecture Center

Rendering courtesy CAF

The Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF) has recently announced plans to build the Chicago Architecture Center (CAC). The 20,000-sf building will showcase Chicago’s architectural legacy and how it has helped to shape cities around the world.

Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture (AS+GG) will design the facility set for construction at 111 East Wacker Drive. The modern building will be located on the Chicago River, just above the dock for the Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise.

Visitors will enter the CAC and be greeted at a tour orientation center on the ground level. They will then be taken on an expert, docent-led tour or move on to view exhibition spaces designed by Local Projects, an exhibition and media design studio.

“We want the CAC’s exhibitions to actively engage audiences and encourage them to keep digging into the many stories and insights we have to share about architecture,” said Local Projects founder Jake Barton in a release.


A rendering of the CAC building above a Chicago architecture boat tourCourtesy of CAF.


The CAC will comprise almost 10,000-sf of exhibition space that will house an expanded, interactive and digitally enhanced Chicago City Model Experience that will tell the story of Chicago. A City of Neighborhoods Gallery will focus on the varied stories of Chicago’s neighborhoods. Chicago is often considered the birthplace of the skyscraper, as such, the history of Chicago’s skyscrapers will be on full display in a permanent Tall Buildings and Innovation exhibit. This exhibit, located in a 26-foot, double-height exhibition space dubbed the Skyscrape Gallery, will tell the stories of famous skyscrapers in Chicago and around the world. The exhibits will include 3D, scale models, including the world’s largest 3D Chicago model as part of the Chicago City Model Experience. There will also be rotating temporary exhibits on display throughout the year.

In addition to the exhibition space, the CAC will include a lecture hall, a hands-on design studio, new retail space for the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s shop, and office space for the 70 CAF employees stationed in the new building. The design studio will host programs and classes for children and adults. Programs will include expanded scholarship-based summer camps for middle school students, a STEM-based program for girls, and free family festivals.

CAF is currently in the silent phase of a campaign to raise $10 million to establish the center and to expand education and public programs. The CAC is scheduled to open in summer 2018.

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