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“I enjoy the people I meet on our tours, from all walks of life and all parts of the globe, all interested in learning about Chicago's architecture.” 

—Gabe labovitz, CAF Docent Class of 2008

What is a Chicago Architecture Foundation docent?

Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF) docents are skilled ambassadors and educators. They develop and conduct public and private tours and serve as interpreters of Chicago’s architecture and its history.

Our docents are an elite group of content experts. They are handpicked and carefully trained to serve as the face of an internationally renowned organization. Although CAF docents come from all walks of life, they share a few common traits. Each of our docent volunteers is a curious and creative lifelong learner. They are passionate about architecture and Chicago. They are flexible and open to feedback, and enjoy interacting with people from all over the world.

What does the docent application process entail?

First, fill out an application form and pay the $20 application fee. Then, if you're selected to move on the next round, you will be interviewed by a group of current docents.

Although we're no longer accepting applications for the 2016 Docent Class, you can stay in the loop by signing up for Volunteer Updates via email.


A few tips for strengthening your application:

  • Attend a docent information meeting to receive the most current information about our next docent class.
  • Commit to attending all training class sessions.
  • Commit to completing all class requirements.
  • Be available to give weekend tours.

Due to the challenging requirements of our training program, we do not accept full-time undergraduate students to our docent training program.

Once I’m accepted into the program, how do I train to become a docent?

Our docent training is a rigorous experience. The program aims to give new docents a broad understanding of architecture and architectural language, as well as the confidence and skills necessary to lead a specific tour.

Docent training has three components:

  • Introduction to the Chicago Architecture Foundation – A two-hour orientation to answer all of your questions about our organization.
  • Fundamentals of Chicago Architecture – This class meets once a week for a full day to discuss Chicago architecture and history. It includes a broad look at architecture and techniques for developing and conducting tours.
  • Specific Tour Training – This class meets once a week for a full day to focus on developing and mastering at least one CAF tour. This section includes tour demonstrations, tour practice and assistance in creating a tour that will meet CAF standards. In 2017, you will be expected to learn two tours.

What is expected of a CAF docent?

Once your docent training is complete, we hope you’ll be excited to put everything you’ve learned to use. You’ll join the ranks of CAF docents who happily share their knowledge and passion for Chicago, its world-class architecture and the urban environment.

Our docents commit to giving a minimum of 13 tours during their first year of service. After that, each docent is expected to give a minimum of 10 tours every year. Docents also commit to continuing their education by attending docent-planned enrichment activities and/or conducting their own research. But most importantly, our docents are expected to enthusiastically represent CAF and the city of Chicago. 

Important Dates for 2016-2017

Information Meetings

Saturday, September 10, 2016: 10:00 – 11:30 am

Wednesday, September 21, 2016: 12:00 – 1:30 pm

Thursday, September 29, 2016: 5:30 - 7:00 pm

Please note, it's OK to first submit an application and then attend an information meeting.

Training Dates (Must Attend All Sessions)

Introduction to the Chicago Architecture Foundation

We'll share dates for this orientation session after your acceptance to the docent training program. 

 Fundamentals of Chicago Architecture

(All sessions take place on Saturdays, from 9:00 am – 4:30 pm)

January 14, 21 and 28; February 4 and 11 (2017)

Specific Tour Training

(All sessions take place on Saturdays, from 9:00 am – 4:30 pm)

February 25; March 4, 11 and 18 (2017)

Specific Tour Training

(All sessions will take place on Saturdays, from 9:00 am – 4:30 pm. You must be available to attend each date from one of the options below.)

Option 1: April 29 and May 13, 2017

Option 2: June 10, June 24 and July 8 2017

Option 3: August 5 and 19, 2017

You will be required to learn two tours in 2017 and therefore participate in one of the training options above. 

Other Dates

Application Period: September 1 – October 15, 2016
Interviews: October 15 – November 21, 2016