Eleanor Esser Gorski serves as the CEO & President of the Chicago Architecture Center (CAC), a premier organization dedicated to celebrating and promoting Chicago as a global hub of architectural innovation and education. Since 2022, she has been leading the organization with a passionate commitment to design's power in creating equitable communities
With over 25 years of experience in architecture, historic preservation, and urban planning, Eleanor brings a wealth of knowledge to the CAC. As a licensed architect, Eleanor has made equity and community central to her career, aligning design, planning, and historic preservation for neighborhood benefit. At CAC, the world's largest organization of its kind, she leads the charge, attracting over 700,000 annual patrons and solidifying Chicago's identity as the "City of Architecture." Her academic background, program design expertise, and commitment to community engagement are catalysts for expanding CAC's educational programs which currently empower thousands of students and families through workshops, programs, competitions, and mentoring.
Eleanor's distinguished career includes leadership roles within the City of Chicago, where she served as Acting Commissioner at the Department of Planning and Development. Here, she spearheaded initiatives such as the Industrial Corridor Modernization Initiative and the Fulton Market Innovation District Plan, contributing significantly to the city's commercial growth. Notable projects under her guidance span from the five-year renovation of Wrigley Field to the planning for the iconic Obama Presidential Center. Eleanor's portfolio also includes the renovation of numerous early skyscrapers in the Loop and the preservation of the historic Carson Pirie Scott State Street store, now home to Target. Within the City of Chicago, Eleanor's contributions include the creation of a community review process for the Chicago Plan Commission and the development of crucial design guidelines for city landmark districts and neighborhoods. Her work in financial incentive legislation has been groundbreaking, providing vital assistance to small businesses in underserved communities through the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund and preserving landmarks with the Class L tax incentive
Before joining CAC, Eleanor served as the Executive Director of the Cook County Land Bank Authority. Here, she expanded the organization's impact, facilitating the redevelopment of numerous residential and multifamily buildings and contributing to significant projects like the Washington Park Bank and the CTA Red Line Extension Project. Community-focused, she forged relationships with nonprofits, a mission she continues at CAC by building partnerships with like-minded organizations and change agents. Eleanor's accolades include being a fellow of the American Academy of Rome, where she studied the integration of new construction and old in Rome, Berlin, and Amsterdam. Throughout her career, she has received widespread recognition, including the Rome Prize for Historic Preservation from the American Academy, AIA Chicago's Distinguished Service Award, the ULI Chicago Breakthrough Award, and recognition from C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group and Landmarks Illinois
She graduated Summa cum Laude from Penn State University, double majoring in Art History and History, and received her master's in architecture from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Eleanor is also a fellow of the Civic Leadership Academy at the University of Chicago's Harris School of Public Policy. Beyond her professional achievements, Eleanor is a proud mom to two teenage boys and calls Chicago home.