Open House New York, a weekend celebrating NYC Architecture

For 363 days a year, many of New York’s greatest civic designs are locked away from public view. Except for one October weekend, when Open House New York celebrates the city’s contemporary and historic urban design and planning, and facilitates access to some of these architectural treasures throughout its five boroughs. From October 14 – 15, 2017, the weekend program brings in an estimated 85,000 visitors that tour more than 275 participating sites. Visitors are also here for Architecture and Design Month (Oct. 1-31), when events around the city include lectures, films, and tours of buildings (a few are by boat), that demonstrate the grandeur of New York’s sprawling cityscape.

Open House New York began with Scott Lauer in 2001, who proposed the idea to engage New Yorkers in the city’s architecture, public spaces, and the future of urban life. His proposal came at a critical time in New York history, following the September 11 attacks on downtown’s World Trade Center. With blockades and increased security around the city, Open House New York became something of a countervailing energy against terrorism that promoted accessibility and appreciation for the city’s rich civic spirit and built environment. Today there are Open Houses in city’s around the world, with New York being the second most popular before London.

Programming this year includes a range of conversations and lectures on the city specifically curated to engage visitors to reflect on urban design process, the many challenges to create large scale projects and other issues the arise when developing and managing the city’s built environment. Some of the building tours are by reservation only, but all of them are fascinating— from Art Deco theaters that conjure the cultural jolt of the Jazz Age, to historic farmhouses and cutting edge skyscrapers with the latest technologies. Imposing downtown landmarks like the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House and New York City Hall, one of the oldest in the nation, are just a few of the Manhattan gems that will open for a handful of hours this October.

If you miss October’s tours and lectures, Open House New York also has year-round programs and events. Their Field Guide series, for example, brings visitors to a variety of New York neighborhoods to peruse their architecturally and culturally important sites, and question how the urban environment was built and manipulated to create communities and local identity. For their Urban Systems Series, experts delve into year-long thematic explorations of how New York City tackles important issues in a complicated landscape, such as food supply, waste removal, manufacturing and so on.

Whether you are interested in knowing more about urban preservation, infrastructure development, or even contemporary housing design, there is something for everyone year-round. For more information on the 15th Annual Open House New York events, reservations and more, visit: www.ohny.org.

Words by Rocky Casale