The annual Great Chicago Places and Spaces, a weekend-long celebration of local architecture and design, begins sedately enough with Friday’s 6 PM opening discussion about social housing and community building, with architect Carol Ross Barney, activists Rick Lowe and Raul Raymundo, and former journalist Curtis Lawrence (Chase Auditorium, 10 S. Dearborn). Seating is first-come, first-served starting at 5:15.

By early the next morning, however, all hell breaks loose as architecture buffs start lining up to get tickets for their top picks from more than 200 free tours led by architects, designers, docents, and other knowledgeable guides. Many are walking tours; others are conducted by bus, el, trolley, boat, bicycle, or even Segway. Registration for some closed May 11, but for many others tickets are available on the day they take place (and only that day) at event headquarters, the Chicago Architecture Foundation ArchiCenter, 224 S. Michigan. Starting at 7:30 AM, you can pick up a max of two tickets per tour for two tours per day. Your ticket should say where the tour starts.

What follows are some of my top picks; for more information call 312-744-3315 and for a complete schedule see –Lynn Becker nd Spaces


9 AM Architecture River Cruise

Geoffrey Baer leads another of the architectural boat tours that have made him one of WTTW’s most popular hosts–but for this one you actually get to sit on the boat.

9:30 Recent Chicago Landmarks

Deputy landmarks commissioner Brian Goeken leads a trolley tour of recently landmarked treasures, including the Metropolitan Community Church, the Cermak Road Bridge District, and the castle-style mansion Henry Ives Cobb designed for Canadian physician John A. McGill on South Drexel.

10:00 Auditorium Theatre Decoded

Resident historian Bart Swindall unveils the engineering and acoustical secrets of the Adler & Sullivan masterwork. Also 2 PM Sunday.

10:00 Millennium Park

Edward Uhlir, the park’s director of design, architecture, and landscape, leads a tour of the park.

10:45 Chicago’s Seven Most Endangered

Preservation Chicago’s Jonathan Fine and Michael Moran lead their own trolley tour–of buildings they think should be landmarks but aren’t. Wave farewell to the Farwell as you pass. Also at 1:15 PM today and 10:45 AM and 1:15 PM Sunday.

11:45 Chicago’s Latest Green Homes

The Construction and Permits Department’s green projects administrator, Erik Olsen, who also tracks green building endeavors independently on the Web site GreenBean, leads tours of three single-family homes in different stages of eco-conscious renovation on the north side.

Noon Little Village Academy

Architect Carol Ross Barney leads a tour of her firm’s award-winning elementary school building, an instant community landmark.

1:00 Hidden Spaces/Secret Places

Architect Andrew Metter leads a trolley tour of the Pilsen East Art Community Complex–a collection of artist residences and shared gardens owned by the Podmajersky family–and the architectural artifacts collection of prominent preservationist Seymour Persky in River North.

1:30 Chicago Cultural Center’s New Green Rooftop

Led by landscape architect Christa Lazarz and Chicago landmarks commissioner and architect Edward Torrez. Also 2 PM.

2:00 Columbia College Chicago’s South Loop

A tour of the vintage buildings that the school has rescued and restored to make up its South Loop campus, led by campus environment project manager Joe Leamanczyk and acting liberal arts dean Dominic Pacyga.


9 AM Chicago Bungalow Historic Districts

This bus tour takes in the Villa District, an assortment of idiosyncratic bungalows and four squares on North Avers, Hamlin, Harding, and Springfield off Addison, and the Schorsch Irving Park Garden Historic District, a particularly cohesive amassment of bungalows in Portage Park. Led by Tom Drebenstedt of the Chicago Architecture Foundation and Emily Ramsey of the Historic Chicago Bungalow District Association.

9:30 Holabird and Root: Behind the Scenes

James Baird, Greg Marinelli, and Jaime Danehey lead a trolley tour of some of their employer’s greatest hits, including the Palmolive, Monroe, and Marquette buildings.

9:45 NBC 5 Studio

The fishbowl from the inside, with president and general manager Larry Wert.

11:00 Broadway in Chicago’s Historic Theatres

Inside the beautifully restored LaSalle Bank (formerly Schubert) Theatre, the Cadillac Palace, and the gloriously hallucinogenic Oriental, with Sarah Doyle of Broadway in Chicago.

11:00 Tigerman McCurry Atelier

Architect Margaret McCurry leads visitors through the offices of the firm she heads with the iconic Stanley Tigerman, with brief trolley stops outside some of the buildings they’ve designed.

Noon Mosaics of the Loop

Historian Rolf Achilles, curator of the stained glass museum on Navy Pier, leads a tour of the mosaics at such classic buildings as the Rookery, the Monadnock, and the Chicago Cultural Center.

1:00 Taste of Bronzeville

From Blues Alley to Motor Row, Louis Sullivan to Helmut Jahn, plus the Art Moderne-style First Church of Deliverance, designed by Walter T. Bailey, Illinois’ first registered African-American architect. Trolley tour led by Susan Ellis of the National Organization of Minority Architects.