Chicago, with Emma Telfer, Executive Director, Open House Melbourne

by Saturday, November 18, 2017

Emma Telfer.

“Chicago has long been a source of inspiration in my work. The architectural pedigree combined with a huge amount of public appreciation for architecture is my idea of a good time. I was lucky enough to travel to Chicago to attend the Association of Architecture Organisatons Conference and the Chicago Architecture Biennial – the largest survey of architecture in North America and the second largest in the world after Venice.

“Chicago is an incredibly rich city in terms of its buildings. Everywhere you look there is Mies van der Rohe, Frank Lloyd Wright, Fazlur Rahman Khan and hundreds more.  With so many impressive skyscrapers, and being the birthplace of the skyscraper, I was concerned that the city would feel imposing and beyond human scale, but it doesn’t. It is surprisingly walkable, bikable and boatable, and Lake Michigan and the Chicago River are among the city’s biggest attractions. The relatively recent Chicago River Walk that allows uninterrupted pedestrian access to the river has really made the center of Chicago a delightful place to visit.”


Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise.

Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise

“At Open House, we have been looking at the Chicago Architecture Foundation as a point of inspiration. They are the largest public architecture organisation in the world with 70 staff. They are famous for their Chicago architecture tour by boat – named the top activity to do when visiting Chicago.

“I was lucky enough to jump onboard during my recent visit and it was an excellent way to get to know the history and the future of the city by exploring its iconic architecture. The tour takes you through an impressive skyscraper ‘canyon’ and passes buildings such as Wills Tower, Marina City, Aon Tower and Aqua – the new project by Studio Gang.”



A sublime Tiffany Dome.

Chicago Architecture Biennial at the Chicago Cultural Centre

“On until July 2018, the Chicago Architecture Biennial is an impressive survey of contemporary architecture in North America under the theme Make New History. Situated in the beautiful Cultural Centre – once the city’s public library – it’s hard not to be distracted by the sublime Tiffany Domes! The Biennial is free to attend and there is something for everyone including the visually pleasing Vertical City Exhibition.





The lily-pad-like columns at the SC Johnson Workplace Tour.

SC Johnson Workplace Tour

“As a special event for the Chicago Architecture Biennial, SC Johnson opened their workplace in Racine, the only operating commercial workplace designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Racine is about 1.5 hours out of Chicago and the global headquarters of SC Johnson.

“The 1939 SC Johnson Administration Building and Research Tower are celebrated as some of the top buildings of the 20th Century. We missed out on seeing Wingspread, the last and largest of Wright’s Prairie-style houses, but they are now offering free tours of the home located five miles from the workplace. You can’t take photos inside, so my photos are of the impressive exterior lily-pad-like columns and the Research Tower. Don’t miss it if you get the chance!”



About Emma Telfer

Emma is the Executive Director of Open House Melbourne and, like the organisation, she champions the city of Melbourne through its built environment. Open House is a public architecture organisation that empowers people to be active participants in the building of their city.

For more information about Open House Melbourne, click here.