Learn how to become a river cruise docent and check out new programs 

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MAY 4, 2021 • ISSUE 36

Housing exhibit

New Exhibit!

Housing for a Changing Nation

Americans are changing—and so are our housing needs. Opening on Saturday, May 22 at the CAC, Housing for a Changing Nation explores how developments in American society and experience, including shifts in demographics, the economy and the environment, are forcing us to reexamine the concept of house and home.

Central to this exhibit are examples of the role architects can play in advancing innovative housing models at a time when much of our existing housing stock and many of our zoning laws and building codes have become outdated. Here are some thoughts on that topic from one of the Chicago architects featured in the exhibit:

"Architects are trained to see potential and opportunity. The recent need for live/work arrangements has shown that “work” can occur in every neighborhood of the city. Housing is also being adapted to accommodate more multi-generational living arrangements. Architects can creatively address these situations while being sensitive to the context of the city fabric."

–Catherine Baker, FAIA, Principal, Landon Bone Baker Architects

This exhibit is made possible by AARP Illinois and the AARP Foundation.


Walking tours are back! Explore architectural gems in neighborhoods like Chinatown and Kenwood, or rediscover downtown classics. Let our entertaining and expertly trained docents guide you through the Chicago you’ve been longing to rediscover.

CAC walking tours


The CAC Box Office and Design Store are now open Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 10am–4pm. Guests can also explore our new exhibit—Hyper Green High-Rises: Towards a Zero-Energy Skyscraper—in the John and Kathleen Buck Atrium. The rest of the Center remains closed. The CAC's galleries will open on May 22. Stay tuned for more updates!



Skyscraper Innovations: the Construction Materials Defining Chicago's Newest Tall Buildings
Wednesday, May 12 at noon

Twenty-one years in to the new millennium, innovative construction materials are altering Chicago in noticeable ways. CAC docent Kevin Griebenow highlights changes in skyscraper construction and engineering tied to recent material breakthroughs.

Skyscraper program

This program is supported by a gift of the Gary family in memory of Myra Gary and in honor of the Docents’ 50th Anniversary.

Book Talk: Historian Carl Smith on Chicago’s Great Fire
Tuesday, June 22 at 6pm

2021 marks the 150th Anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire. Join author Carl Smith as he discusses his new work of nonfiction, Chicago’s Great Fire: The Destruction and Resurrection of an Iconic American City.

Great fire program

This Book Talk is part of the CAC’s Great Chicago Fire program series, made possible by Underwriters Laboratories Inc.


Family walking tours


Enjoy a special and safe walking tour with one of the CAC’s expertly trained education guides! They'll share the secrets and stories behind some of the city’s most famous buildings, specifically tailored for youth ages 8 and up. The whole family will enjoy learning how Chicago grew and why it became a global capital for great architecture.


River cruise

The CAFC River Cruise aboard Chicago's First Lady is officially back on the water! Hear from co-tour director Lance Friedmann about how the river cruise docents train for the city's official architecture river cruise.

How does a CAC river cruise docent learn to tell their story about architecture on the Chicago River while facing backward on a boat that never moves at the same pace twice—and make it different from the story told by 100 other docents? That’s what 20 brave members of CAC’s River Docent “Class of 2021” are figuring out right now.

There is no script for river cruise docents. From February to July, they study the details of more than 100 buildings along the river, watch videos of experienced docents and learn principles of storytelling that make each CAC cruise unique. They hop aboard cruises to feel the pace of the boat and observe veteran river cruise docents. And they work closely with their coach—an experienced river cruise docent—who helps them create their own unique stories and themes.

All of this preparation leads up to the dreaded “whisper cruise.” After each trainee has created their own narrative, the only way to practice with the challenges of the boat’s pace is onboard.

The docent trainee boards the boat, tucks into a corner with their coach and “whispers” the cruise to the coach while the voice of the docent giving the cruise blasts out of nearby speakers.

Those who make it through this gauntlet are ready for full certification—standing in front of a boatful of paying customers to deliver the tour they’ve worked on for months, under the sharp eye of a certifier. When all goes well—and it virtually always does—the guests on the boat are flabbergasted to learn it was the docent’s first‐ever full tour—and another river cruise docent has joined the corps!


Select CAC walking tour departures are now available for purchase. Please note that advance reservations and face coverings are required for all CAC walking tours. Those who attend CAC walking tours departing through April may request vouchers for complimentary Center admission once exhibits reopen in May. The Chicago Architecture Foundation Center River Cruises aboard Chicago’s First Lady is now running. All CAC tour attendees are prompted to acknowledge and accept the CAC’s safety policies supporting recommendations from public health officials from the CDC, the State of Illinois and the City of Chicago. Located at 111 East Wacker Drive in downtown Chicago, the Center's galleries remain temporarily closed to visitors.

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