Open Buildings: A digital archive of the World’s Built Environment

One of my favorite things to do in the summertime is take a train into Chicago and stroll around the city. I am constantly in awe of the skyscrapers that tower above me. While I can recognize such buildings as the famous Lake Shore Drive Apartments by Modernist architect, Mies van der Rohe, many of the buildings that surround me, not only in Chicago, but even here in Champaign-Urbana remain anonymous (for more information on C-U architecture, check out the architecture tours in ExploreCU). This is unfortunate, as all buildings carry a history. Accessing this history has become incredibly easy, however, with the use of a website called, Open Buildings, an online archive and forum showcasing existing buildings and conceptual architecture.

Not only is Open Buildings an excellent resource to learn about the origins of everyday buildings that surround us, but it’s also a great tool to connect with other architecture fans, firms, and professionals. Open Buildings is both an archive of architectural structures, as well as a directory of architects.

Open Buildings allows you to search for specific buildings, architects, particular building functions, and even browse through collections. Each day, the website features a different building to explore, from Airspace Tokyo to a house built for skateboarders. Open Buildings features both well-known landmarks and innovative, lesser-known designs. In addition to searching through their featured housing, Open Buildings has curated collections for users to browse as well. Collection categories range from building function (Contemporary Religious Buildings), material use (Bamboo Architecture), to groups of architectures (Architects Under 40).

Open Buildings Homepage displaying Featured building.

Open Buildings Homepage displaying Featured building.

Open Buildings also has a map feature that lets you search for buildings of interest nearby (click the image below for some landmarks in Champaign-Urbana!) but even internationally. The website keeps records of existing buildings, structures that have since been destroyed, and conceptual or unrealized architectural projects. Because of Open Building’s comprehensive survey of architectural design, this website can be of use not only to working as an architects, but student designers, urban planners, and scholars alike.

Landmark Buildings in Champaign-Urbana, IL.

Map View of Landmark Buildings in Champaign-Urbana, IL.

Users can edit building profiles to add more information and images, and connect with other users to discuss design issues. There is even a directory feature that lists over 14,000+ working professionals. After creating a free account, you can upload your own portfolio, comment on designs, and contact professional architects.

A mobile app is even available, perfect for the next time you find yourself on city streets wondering, “What is this beautiful building?”


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