The Chicago Architecture Biennial and the Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF) are pleased to announce that CAF has been named the Signature Education Partner of the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial. Building upon the success of the education programs offered in the inaugural 2015 Chicago Architecture Biennial, CAF is developing an ambitious new education initiative and expanding the Chicago Architecture Biennial’s reach to communities throughout the city.

CAF will create a wide variety of innovative education opportunities delivered downtown and in Chicago’s neighborhoods – including field trips, teen studios, a design competition, teen ambassadors, family guide booklets and teacher training – for students from Chicago Public Schools. CAF’s new program introduces two Community Festival Days for families with children ages 6-12 and expanded teacher trainings that include the City Colleges of Chicago that will reach 15,000 young people in 2017, doubling the number reached in the three-month long exhibition in 2015.

“The Chicago Architecture Biennial is an important showcase of architecture throughout the city,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “The educational partnership with the Chicago Architecture Foundation will give Chicago students the opportunity to understand architecture in new ways and to experience first-hand the vibrant fabric of our city.”

The Chicago Cultural Center will once again be the core site of this year’s Chicago Architecture Biennial – free and open to the public from September 16, 2017 through January 7, 2018 – with special projects and exhibitions at a variety of locations around the city, including six neighborhood museums and institutions, known as Community Anchors. CAF’s expertise in delivering education programs to teens and residents from all of Chicago’s neighborhoods, and programming throughout the city through Open House Chicago, will aid the Chicago Architecture Biennial’s efforts to expand its reach beyond the city’s center.

“For more than 50 years, CAF has helped Chicagoans see their city in new ways through programs, tours, education and exhibitions delivered in the neighborhoods where they live,” said Lynn Osmond, President and CEO of CAF. “We are so pleased that CAF, as Signature Education Partner, is able to use our expertise in teen education to inspire the talented young people of Chicago to discover ‘why design matters’ and how they, and all Chicagoans, can build the city they want, need and deserve.”

“The Chicago Architecture Biennial's outreach to students of all ages throughout Chicago is an integral component of our program,” said Jack Guthman, Chairman on the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial Board. “Our goal is to expose young people to both the esthetics and technology which are at the core of architecture and design."

The Chicago business and civic community has also stepped up to support the education program, which is underwritten by principal funder Zell Family Foundation and student prize sponsor BP, with support from student field trip sponsor Comcast, and Liz and Eric Lefkofsky.

The 2017 theme, “Make New History,” further solidifies the partnership between the Chicago Architecture Biennial and CAF. “This year we aim to explore the influence of historical techniques and practices on the field of architecture today and in the future. It makes sense that we would partner with an esteemed organization like CAF that has a deep reach into Chicago’s neighborhoods,” said the Chicago Architecture Biennial’s Executive Director, Todd Palmer. “The response from educators throughout Chicago to CAF’s education programs has been tremendous, and we are thrilled to have them on board to help us bring the Chicago Architecture Biennial to the city’s youth in the communities where they live.”

CAF Education Programs for the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial

CAF’s education programs will reach thousands of Chicago-area youth and include the following:

  • Educator materials and teacher trainings for Chicago Public Schools teachers, expanded to include City Colleges of Chicago instructors in 2017, offers a unique curriculum and interpretation of the Chicago Architecture Biennial.
  • Two Community Festival Days, new for 2017, provide hands-on activities for families with children ages 6-12 that explore the Chicago Architecture Biennial’s theme “Make New History.” Dates and locations to come.
  • A family guide booklet will be available on-site at the Chicago Cultural Center or for free download from the CAF website starting in mid-August.
  • Student Field Trips Sponsored by Comcast
    • Field trips to the Chicago Architecture Biennial’s primary exhibition at the Chicago Cultural Center, during which CAF Education Guides will facilitate 90-minute interactive field trips for grades 5-12. Field trips will take place Tuesday-Friday weekly throughout the Chicago Architecture Biennial.
  • The BP Student Design Competition
    • This city-wide ideas competition challenges students to respond to the Chicago Architecture Biennial’s theme “Make New History” and support arts, social studies and STEM learning standards for grades 6-12. To be eligible, applicants must be ages 13-18, live within the city’s limits and be enrolled in a Chicago Public Schools high school. Registration opens September 1, 2017; projects are due November 17, 2017.
    • Jurors will include representatives from architecture and design firms, Chicago Public Schools, and the Chicago Architecture Biennial. Cash and other prizes will be awarded to the top 10 designers and their teachers.
  • Through the Teen Ambassador Program, 30 Chicago Public Schools high school students will serve as ambassadors to the Chicago Architecture Biennial on weekends and school holidays and earn service-learning hours towards high school graduation requirements. The Teen Ambassador Program is part of the Allstate Teen Academy @ CAF.
  • Three-hour “master class” teen workshops, called Teen Studios, will be run by local architects and enable participants to solve real world design problems. Teen Studios will take place at the Chicago Cultural Center and a variety of neighborhood locations.  

In addition to the educational programs delivered by CAF as the Chicago Architecture Biennial’s Signature Education Partner, broad, diverse, city-wide access to CAF’s existing tours, exhibitions and programs will be available September 2017 through January 2018, including:


  • The Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise aboard Chicago’s First Lady Cruises: CAF’s famous boat tour has daily departures through November 19, 2017.
  • Walking and bus tours to iconic locations in and around Chicago, including a number of Frank Lloyd Wright sites and Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House.


  • Design Dialogues: a quarterly lecture series featuring panel discussions and Q&A with local design and architecture experts on current civic issues related to the state of Chicago’s built environment. Schedule to come.
  • Architecture is Art: a series of dialogues featuring cutting-edge designers in the field who are blurring the lines between art and architecture; produced jointly by CAF and the Museum of Contemporary Art and moderated by Reed Kroloff. Schedule to come.


  • The Chicago Model: the world’s largest to-scale model of downtown Chicago to be updated for the Chicago Architecture Biennial with new buildings completed since April 2016.
  • Between States: CAF’s new exhibition, Between States, takes a close look at the numerous challenges Chicago is facing in terms of placemaking and neighborhood vitality, and asks, what is the role of design in solving these complex problems? By inviting 50 Chicago design firms to submit 50 transformative solutions for all 50 wards that address everyday needs and improve the quality life of our local residents, we are able to create a robust and relevant community conversation that touches all geographic reaches of the city. These projects go on display in the CAF Atrium Gallery September 19 through December 19, 2017 at CAF (224 South Michigan Avenue).

Special Events:

  • Open House Chicago: a free public festival that offers thousands of locals and visitors behind-the-scenes access to 200 buildings across Chicago. The seventh annual Open House Chicago takes place October 14-15, 2017.