Chicago Architecture Foundation

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Coordinates: 41°52′43″N 87°37′29″W / 41.878537°N 87.624845°W / 41.878537; -87.624845

Railway Exchange Building from Michigan Avenue.jpg
Chicago Architecture Foundation headquarters
at 224 S Michigan Avenue
Founded 1966 (1966)
Type 501(c)(3) charitable organization
Focus Education, Architecture, Design
Chicago Model

The Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF) is a nonprofit cultural organization based in Chicago, Illinois, United States, whose mission is to inspire people to discover why design matters. It is known for its public tours and programs, most notably the docent-led architecture cruise on the Chicago River, and other tours in the Chicago area. CAF is also known for its scale model of downtown Chicago.[1] CAF's river cruise is ranked in the top ten tours in the U.S. by TripAdvisor users.[2]


CAF was founded in 1966 as the Chicago School of Architecture Foundation to save H. H. Richardson's Glessner House, one of Chicago's oldest residences.[3] In 1971, it began to offer lectures and volunteer-led tours of Chicago to the public. In 1979 it was renamed the Chicago Architecture Foundation. In 1992, CAF moved to its current location, the Railway Exchange Building. In 2009 CAF opened a new exhibition, Chicago Model, which includes a 3D-printed scale model of the central area of the city and is now on permanent display.[4]


CAF offers approximately 85 different tours of the city. All tours are led by trained volunteer docents who go through a 14-week training course before being certified to lead CAF tours. Many tours in the Loop include historic buildings such as the Chicago Board of Trade, the Marquette Building, the Monadnock Building, and Daniel Burnham and John Wellborn Root's Rookery among many others. Some modern buildings that are explored include the Sears Tower, John Hancock Center, Mies van der Rohe's Chicago Federal Center and the Trump Tower. CAF also offers tours of parks and public spaces such as Millennium Park, Maggie Daley Park and the Chicago Pedway. During the summer months, CAF offers tours of various neighborhoods throughout Chicago in addition to downtown tours. CAF's most popular tour, the CAF River Cruise aboard Chicago's First Lady Cruises has departures April–November every year. CAF offers tours year-round.

Open House Chicago[edit]

CAF also hosts the largest annual architecture event in the city, Open House Chicago. This free, annual event gives the public access to buildings and spaces around the city that are typically closed to the public. Held over a weekend in October, OHC attracts tens of thousands of participants from across the country and around the world.[5]


CAF offers a robust architecture and design education program and has received several awards for their curricula and textbooks including Schoolyards to Skylines, the Architecture Handbook, and In 2013, CAF opened the ArcelorMittal Design Studio, a studio space dedicated to introducing design concepts to individuals of all ages.[6]

CAF Shop[edit]

CAF Shop

The CAF Shop, which offers Chicago and architecture-themed products, is located on the first floor of the Railway Exchange Building at 224 South Michigan Avenue.


  1. ^ "CAF Tours". Retrieved 2010-09-07. 
  2. ^ Lazare, Lewis. "Chicago Architecture Foundation river cruise soars to the top at". Chicago Business Journal. 
  3. ^ Ochsner, Jeffrey Karl (1984). H. H. Richardson: Complete Architectural Works. MIT Press. p. 134. 
  4. ^ Blair Kamin (June 2, 2009). "A new model of Chicago's Loop, emerging next week in the CAF's "Chicago Model City" show". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2010-09-07. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Inside the New Chicago Architecture Foundation Design Studio". Curbed Chicago. 

External links[edit]