Chicago Food and Travel Photographer

Open House Chicago 2013

For the past two years the Chicago Architecture Foundation has hosted an Open House Chicago event where 150 locations that would otherwise be private or closed are open to the public.  This year the event was held on October 19th and 20th and many of the same places from the 2012 event were re-opened and many new great venues were added to the list.  I was lucky enough to attend the event last year and I put together a blog post to show some of the photos.

For this year's event I tried to go to places that I hadn't been to before.  Last year I visited the historic Drake Hotel,  The Kemper Building, and the Chicago Tribune Tower

Open House Chicago 2013 - From the Kemper Building

This year I decided to go back to the Kemper building to try to capture a few more photos from the 41st floor.  The Kemper building sits on Wacker Drive and State Street and it's top floor has windows that go around the entire building.   From this vantage point you can see directly down the river to the west and you can also see all the skyscrapers to the east.  The building was built in 1962 and I think some of the original windows are still used so the views from most of the windows were hazy.  I was able to find a few good windows to shoot through and get some shots down the river and to the east.  

Open House Chicago 2013 - IBM Building

After the Kemper building I headed across the river to the IBM Building where I visited Perkins+Will Architects. Their suite was on the 36th floor and was just north of the Kemper building.  These windows were much better and the views were even more amazing that I would have thought.  The building is located at 330 N. Wabash, right next to Trump Tower.  The office had floor to ceiling windows and from the office you could look east down the river to Lake Michigan.  Luckily while I was in their office the bridges along the river were going up to let some sail boats go through.  I had my Nikon 80-200 f2.8 so I changed lenses and snapped a few shots.  I think this building was the surprise gem of the day. 

Next on the list was The Cliff Dwellers on 200 S. Michigan Ave.  I had never seen any photos of The Cliff Dwellers location in Chicago but knowing where it was located I was betting that the view would be good.  They were on the 22nd floor of the building right on Michigan Ave. When the elevator opened I was greeted by a smell of rich mahogany and pure gasoline .  Well maybe not the pure gasoline smell but there was a full Elk mounted on the wall so you get the picture.  The Cliff Dwellers is a private club and non-profit for men and women either professionally engaged in or who support the fine arts.  They have a large ballroom and bar with a full fireplace.  Very old school Chicago.  But that wasn't what I was interested in.  When I saw it I made a B Line straight for the outdoor patio.  The view was high enough to get over the Chicago Art Institute with nothing blocking the lake and city view.  You could see as far south as Central Station and north to the Aon Center.  My wide angle lens was too wide for this view so I changed over to my Nikon 80-200 f2.8 and shot close ups of The Pritzker Pavillion and the Bean.  It was a very interesting view that I had never seen before. 

Open House Chicago - The Cliff Dwellers

After visiting The Cliff Dwellers I headed over to DIRTT Environmental Solutions building.  I'd seen the building in passing but I didn't know anything about DIRTT or the view from the building.  Once again this building sat right on the Chicago River.  When I got upstairs I was surprised by a super modern showroom.  Apparently DIRTT is an environmentally friendly construction and design company.  They create customizable and sustainable architectural interiors and they are cool.  Not only was I impressed with their work, I was super impressed with their view :)  They had a huge wall of windows facing south toward the city.  They also had a nice sized outdoor patio.  I was so impressed by their work that I walked the floor before heading out to take photos. 

Open House Chicago - The Cliff Dwellers

2013 was another great Open House Chicago event.  I wish I would have had the time to see more places but I will definitely attend the event again next year.  I was a little disappointed that I didn't come away with a portfolio shot but I was very impressed with all the new views I saw of the city.  I even got a few ideas for more Chicago shots.  Overall I had a great day and can't wait to explore more at next year's event. 


Open House Chicago - DIRTT Environmental

2012 Open House Chicago

This weekend I spent a few hours attending the 2012 Open House Chicago event. For those of you who aren't aware, Open House Chicago is an event where private areas that are normally off limits to the public are available for tours and pictures. 2011 was the inaugural event and I missed it partially because I didn't know what to expect. I was so amazed by some of the pictures I had seen from last years event that I knew I had to plan my route well before the Open House Chicago weekend.  

The Open House Chicago website has a map with all the participating locations. The website says that over 150 locations participated but the location of these buildings spread from the Rogers Park neighborhood down to Chinatown. I decided to stay in the loop area because they had some high profile buildings that I figured would have amazing views.

Views for the top of the Kemper Building

The first building we started at was the Drake Hotel. They had the Cape Cod Room available for tours.  The picture on the website showed the back of the Drake sign so I assumed that was the view from the Cape Cod Room. Not so much. The Cape Cod Room was on the first floor if not the basement of the Drake Hotel. We got there just as they were opening so we got to talk with the tour guide and she told us that just after Joe Dimaggio and Marilyn Monroe got married they had dinner there and carved their name in the bar. She also informed us Aretha Franklin dines there often and she always sits in one of the semi private rooms. The Cape Cod Room at the Drake was short on views but it was really cool to hear the history of the restaurant.

Next we headed over to the Kemper building. Apparently the Kemper building used to be the Unitrin building until last year. The building has a room on the 41st floor that used to be a restaurant with 360 degree views of the city.  Since the restaurant closed the top floor hasn't been open.  It's been over 40 years since it was open to the public. Because of where it is located you get spectacular views of the river, the jewelers building and many of the other Chicago landmarks. The only issue with this building was the massive reflections from all the people and other windows.  Even though it was a challenging place to shoot the views were well worth it.

After the Kemper building we headed over to the Chicago Tribune Tower. The Tribune Tower tour was of the board room and the office of the original president. From the board room there were some great views down Michigan Ave and amazing views of The Wrigley Building across the street. The shot of The Wrigley Building was the one that I had seen last year that convinced me that this was an event that I had to attend.

Next on the list was the First United Methodist Church across from Daley Plaza and the Picasso sculpture. The First United Methodist Church has a sanctuary near the top of the building (approximately 30 stories) that they actively use for worship. From the top of the building you could look down at the Picasso and Daley Plaza. It was a pretty amazing site to see and one of those "one of a kind" buildings.

The Open House Chicago event is what makes Chicago such an amazing city. I wish I could have seen more buildings but ill definitely put it on my calendar for next year. Enjoy the pictures!