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An architecture center may be a new concept in Chicago, but it isn’t in other parts of the world. Here’s a look at a few other centers that served as inspiration for the Chicago Architecture Center.

by Ian Spula, Specialist, Program Operations

Chicago is rightly known as a city both knowledgeable and proud of its architecture. For more than 50 years, the Chicago Architecture Foundation has showcased the city’s architectural innovations to Chicagoans and visitors. But we sensed we could do more to inspire people to discover why design matters. We also felt that because Chicago has played such an important role in modern architecture that it deserved to have its own architecture center, along with approximately 100 other cities in the world that already have one.

In creating an architecture center, we don’t simply want to be bigger; we want to provide a deeper, authentic experience. Our new location at 111 E. Wacker will help us achieve that goal. “We want to be the first stop for visitors to Chicago and a return destination for locals looking to better understand and appreciate their city, through our programs and exhibitions,” says CAF President and CEO Lynn Osmond.

New London Architecture, London

The NLA provides an inspiring model for encouraging civic engagement and getting the public involved in critical decisions being made about London’s future. For example, the NLA created the London Tall Buildings Survey, which contains data and citizen perspectives about the city’s vertical growth. The survey has become an important reference work for policy makers. To represent these issues visually, NLA has created a huge London city model that encompasses the entire urbanized city center, with transit, parks, infrastructure and patterns of growth projected onto it using light, color, and sound. Similarly, we are re-imagining the CAC’s expanded Chicago Model as an interactive multi-media experience that will show visitors Chicago’s past, present and future.

PavilLon de l'Arsenal Center for Architecture and Urbanism, Paris

L’Arsenal has strong ties to Paris’s design community and its vibrant neighborhoods. The focal point of the interior is a large interactive all-digital model. Visitors can manipulate the map to view stories about curated sets of buildings. The center’s exhibitions on the history of Paris and town planning also provide a backdrop for a range of conversations. People see it as a welcoming place where they can have "meet-ups" over food and discuss architecture and urban planning issues. Likewise, CAF takes its civic role seriously. The CAC will be a space that belongs to every Chicagoan who wishes to explore how we can build a better future for our city.

Danish Architecture Center, Copenhagen

Like us, the Danish Architecture Center is in the process of moving to a new home. The OMA/Rem Koolhaas designed center will be a hub of design debate in Denmark, creating common ground between the public, designers and developers that leads to innovative architecture. Its leaders are planning programs and exhibitions for both the public and design professionals to create a synergy that is at the heart of any successful architecture center. Similarly, the CAC will provide a forum for Chicago’s designers and the broader community to come together.