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Chicago Architecture Foundation exhibitions encourage people to discover the spaces, places, and structures that shape Chicago and all communities.

The unique installations encourage people to understand how architects, engineers, and planners design environments—and how we all participate.

The exhibitions inspire people to imagine the future of metropolitan regions everywhere.

The Chicago Architecture Foundation would like to thank our funders, whose generous contributions make many of our exhibitions possible.

Chicago Architecture Club Barak Obama Library prize competition

2014 Chicago Prize: The Barack Obama Presidential Library Design Competition

COST Free and open to the public
HOURS February 3 through April; 7 days a week from 9am-6:30pm

A call for design entries for the Barack Obama Presidential Library has been announced by the Chicago Architectural Club (CAC) for their 2014 Chicago Prize Competition. In partnership with CAC and with support from AIA Chicago, the Chicago Architecture Foundation will host the exhibit of winning project designs for this important new civic institution. A jury of prominent academics, public officials and designers will lead a discussion on the speculative proposals, initiating a debate that will encourage us to rethink and redefine this particular building typology. The winning projects will remain on exhibition through April, 2015.

Learn more about the exhibition >

Presented in partnership with the Chicago Architectural Club, with support from AIA Chicago and SOM

Chicago Architecture Club AIA Chicago logo SOM logo

Skyline Stories

Online Exhibition

Have you ever looked up at a building and thought, "how was that designed?" "What was the architect thinking?" Or, "why was this built in Chicago?" The answer to these questions and many more are revealed in CAF's new online exhibition, Skyline Stories. Watch, listen and read stories about 10 of Chicago’s most iconic buildings. Each has four videos associated with it that touch on the building’s form, secrets about it, context and the process.

Visit this online exhibition >>

Skyline Stories is made possible by generous support from:

city of big data

Chicago: City of Big Data

COST  Free and open to the public
HOURS  7 days a week from 9am-6:30pm
LOCATION  Atrium Gallery, 224 South Michigan Avenue

Did you know data has become a 21st century design material? Architects, planners, engineers and citizens increasingly use data to understand urban issues and spark design innovation. This explosion of digital information, known as “Big Data,” encompasses everything from data collected by environmental sensors to messages on social media. This new exhibition reveals the potential of urban data and offers a new perspective on Chicago and cities everywhere. Visitors can explore interactive displays, recreated sections of the city and get unique views into your own personal data.

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Chicago Model

COST  Free and open to the public
HOURS  7 days a week from 9am-6:30pm
LOCATION  Atrium Gallery, 224 South Michigan Avenue

Chicago Model City is the only accurate and up-to-date three-dimensional portrait of Chicago's downtown. This 320-square-foot work-in-progress enables you to see Chicago as you've never seen it before. The model became an instant icon when it opened in 2009, beloved by tourists and locals alike. It has become the centerpiece for exhibitions in the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s atrium gallery. In addition, the model is the departure point for CAF tours, a gathering place, an orientation point for visitors, and a great photo opportunity! Famous visitors to the model include Mayor Richard J. Daley, architect Jeanne Gang, and television personality Geoffrey Baer. CAF is currently developing exhibitions that will make Chicago Model City a richer and even more exciting experience.

Learn more about the Chicago model >>

Chicago Model City is made possible by the generous support of our sponsors.


LEGO Architecture Studio

The LEGO Architecture Studio is the newest addition to the ArcelorMittal Design Studio at CAF. Here, everyone can engage in creative play and design thinking while being inspired by the designs exhibited in the studio all made by visitors who engage in CAF's design education programs. Projects exhibited are produced by designers ages 8 - 80 years old!

The LEGO Architecture Studio exhibit is now open in the ArcelorMittal Design Studio at CAF.


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Women Building Change: Celebrating 40 Years of Chicago Women in Architecture

The Chicago Architecture Foundation is pleased to partner with Chicago Women in Architecture (CWA) for its 40th anniversary by hosting a special exhibition, Women Building Change: Celebrating 40 Years of Chicago Women in Architecture. The exhibition is both a historical retrospective, and a modern reflection, on the process of design and the changing roles of women in architecture. It will focus on the design process, people and the profession of architecture, and highlight the impact of CWA members through Chicago case studies. Themes including process and profession, pursuing equality, building community, creating home and preserving significance will shed light on the work of women in the organization. Visitors to the exhibition will also have the opportunity to see the range of architectural drawings, photos and documents created in the design of a building.

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Great Cities, Great Lakes, Great Basin

Five lakes, a river, and a gulf. One basin.
50 million people call it home.
11,000 miles of coastline surround these bodies of water.
20% of the world’s fresh surface water fills the basin.
But there is no comprehensive plan to guide its growth.

We must change how we live to protect the integrity of the world’s largest fresh water resource. Great Cities, Great Lakes, Great Basin explores a 100-year design vision for the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence River region.

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Take Me to the River: Building Chicago's New Waterfront

Take Me to the River: Building Chicago's New Waterfront investigates Chicagoans’ vision for the future of the Chicago River as the heart of a beautiful and livable city.

Dip into designers’ ideas for reinventing the river and its connection to the neighborhoods through which it flows. Explore two soon-to-be-completed boathouses. Get a sneak peak of the next six sections of the Chicago Riverwalk. Discover far-reaching ideas that would transform the Chicago River’s role as drainage canal. Take in the iconic architecture—from glassy high rises to railroad bridges—that defines the riverfront.

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Four Chicago academic institutions present visions for the future of city life in the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s exhibition Unseen City: Designs for a Future Chicago. The participating designers encourage us to ask, “What might this neighborhood and city become?”

Come see a 19th century boulevard transformed for the 21st, a horizontal deconstructed Willis Tower, an industrial district as creative hub, and a skyscraper that scrubs the air.

What future do you imagine for your neighborhood?

Learn more about SynergiCity>>

Synergicity: Reinventing the Postindustrial City

SynergiCity celebrates the reinvention of industrial districts as mixed-use neighborhoods: warehouses become residences, factories contain offices, and industrial waterfronts are reborn as parks.

This exhibition presents stories of transformation in six Midwestern cities: Chicago, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, St. Paul, St. Louis, and Peoria.

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  Loop Value: The How Much Does It Cost? Shop

In a nation obsessed with acquiring the most stuff at the lowest price, how well do we understand the value of the buildings and products we buy? How do our purchases impact the future of our neighborhoods? Visit Loop Value: The How Much Does It Cost? Shop at the Chicago Architecture Foundation and find a new design for your city and your life. It's a shopping trip unlike any you've experienced before.

Loop Value: The How Much Does It Cost? Shop opened February 17 in the ArcelorMittal CitySpace Gallery at Chicago Architecture Foundation (224 South Michigan Ave.) It is made possible through the generous support of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO); Illinois Sustainable Education Project (I-StEP); the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation; and Illinois American Water.


Learn more about this exhibition>> 

Reconsidering an Icon: Creative Conversations about Prentice Women's Hospital

Reconsidering an Icon showcases visionary designs for the adaptation of Bertrand Goldberg’s 1975 Prentice Women’s Hospital. The exhibition features winning entries to the Chicago Architectural Club’s 2012 Chicago Prize Competition, along with schemes submitted by Chicago’s hottest young design firms. 

Exhibition sponsors and partners include AIA Chicago, Chicago Architectural Club, and Chicago Bauhaus and Beyond.


  Learn more about this exhibition>> 

Chicago is preparing to debut a bold plan for giving public transit riders a speedier and smarter way to ride: Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). By combining cutting-edge technology with specially-chosen routes, BRT promises to make Chicago a more connected city.

This exhibition outlines the features and benefits of BRT while exploring how it is transforming cities around the globe. See how features like dedicated bus lanes and innovative station design are improving bus transportation and people’s lives.

These programs are made possible through the generous support of The Rockefeller Foundation, in partnership with The Chicago Community Trust.



The New Navy Pier

The New Navy Pier presented James Corner Field Operations’ winning design, along with the four competing proposals for Navy Pier’s public spaces. The competition aims to make Navy Pier a year-round destination for locals, tourists and families while taking advantage of its unique setting. Reimagining the pier is an important part of the Centennial Vision, a plan dedicated to redeveloping Navy Pier as it approaches its 100th anniversary in 2016.


Powerful Design


Powerful Design featured entries by local architecture students for a new Com Ed training facility on Chicago’s South Side. This LEED-certified center will be dedicated to training employees, as well as community education on energy efficiency and new technologies. The competition’s winning design solution will help shape the final design by the project architect.



We can save energy and reduce pollution by using efficient light bulbs and driving hybrid cars.  But what if we apply green design to our communities?  By thinking on a larger scale, we can reorganize the places where we live and work.  This will dramatically reduce the impact of our lives on our neighborhoods-and on planet Earth.

The U.S. Green Building Council, working in collaboration with architects, urban planners, builders, and environmentalists, has developed a national design standard for certifying green neighborhoods.  It is called Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Neighborhood Development: LEED-ND.  This exhibition explores the design and certification of green communities.

Neighborhoods Go Green! was made possible by:
U.S. Green Building Council
Farr Associates
City of Chicago, Department of Environment
Richard H. Driehaus Foundation
Grand Victoria Foundation

John Ronan Architects

View videos from the exhibition on


Design on the Edge: Chicago Architects Reimagine Neighborhoods asked leading creative thinkers to tackle challenges facing the city’s communities. The exhibition featured visionary plans devised by Darryl Crosby, Sarah Dunn and Martin Felsen, Jeanne Gang, Doug Garofalo with Xavier Vendrell, Patricia Natke, John Ronan, and Ross Wimer. Their cutting-edge concepts for seven neighborhoods inspire Chicagoans to imagine a more connected, vibrant, and livable city.

Architecture legend Stanley Tigerman, who has been thinking big and inspiring others throughout his fifty-year career, collaborated with CAF on Design on the Edge.

Exhibition catalogue available in the CAF shop.

Generous funding for Design on the Edge: Chicago Architects Reimagine Neighborhoods was provided by the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, Thornton Tomasetti, Inc., and The Irving Harris Foundation, with additional support from Matthew and Kay Bucksbaum, Judith Neisser, Turner Construction Company Foundation, and U.S. Equities Realty, LLC. Fabrication of Urbanworks’ Pilsen Textile Incubator model was made possible through a generous in-kind donation from SOMOS Materials by DSM.


View more past exhibitions >>>      

This Week's Public Programs

CAFamily Studio: Read + Build
Wed, 04 Mar 2015
10:00 AM - 11:00 AM

Chicago’s 7: Annual Most Threatened Buildings List Unveiled
Wed, 04 Mar 2015
11:30 AM - 12:30 PM

Institute of Environmental Sustainability - Loyola
Thu, 05 Mar 2015
6:00 PM - 8:00 PM

Minecraft Studio: 2 Day ChallengeRecurring Event
Sat, 07 Mar 2015
12:00 PM - 3:00 PM

LEGO® Build Workshop: ShadowRecurring Event
Sun, 08 Mar 2015
11:00 AM - 1:00 PM

Minecraft Studio: 2 Day ChallengeRecurring Event
Sun, 08 Mar 2015
12:00 PM - 3:00 PM

LEGO® Build Workshop: ShadowRecurring Event
Sun, 08 Mar 2015
2:00 PM - 4:00 PM

More Events


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