The Chicago Architecture Center (CAC) has revealed that it has a new leader. Late last week, the CAC announced that Eleanor Esser Gorski, a licensed architect and major player in the realms of planning and historic preservation in the Windy City, is filling the role of the nonprofit organization’s chief executive officer following the departure of longtime president and CEO Lynn Osmond this past April. Osmond, who joined CAC in 1996, left to serve as the first president and CEO of Chicago’s official tourism agency, Choose Chicago. Her departure sparked a rigorous, nationwide search for a successor led by a CAC Board–appointed search committee in partnership with Koya Partners.
Per a CAC press announcement, the exhaustive search led the committee to select Gorski based on “key qualities including a passion for CAC’s mission, outstanding business acumen, strategic and visionary business leadership, and an ability to building culture, lead people, and raise funds.”
“Eleanor shares our mission to inspire people to discover why design matters, and we are confident that she will further our vision of a world in which design is the engine that powers the growth of vibrant, equitable urban communities,” elaborated CAC’s Board Chair Ann Thompson, who serves as Executive Vice President of Architecture and Design at Related Midwest.
Gorski joins CAC, which was first established in 1966 as the Chicago Architecture Foundation, from the University of Illinois at Chicago where she served as planning and design director. Previously, from 2017–2020, she led City of Chicago Department of Planning and Development (DPD) as Acting Commissioner, a role in which she oversaw a slew of transformative efforts including the Industrial Corridor Modernization Initiative and the Fulton Market Innovation District Plan. Gorski is also a former director of Chicago’s Landmarks Commission, managing numerous major projects including, among others, the renovation of Wrigley Field and the planning for the Obama Presidential Center. During her nearly decade-long career with the City of Chicago, Gorski also crafted the Community Review Process for the Chicago Plan Commission and devised numerous design guidelines for the city’s landmark districts and neighborhoods.
Most recently, Gorski served as executive director of the Cook County Land Bank Authority (CCLBA), a role that she assumed in August 2021. The CCLBA renovated reached a major milestone, the renovation of its 1,000th home, during Gorkski’s tenure.
Although her time with the CCBLA was relatively brief, CAC noted in its announcement that a “hallmark of Gorski’s tenure was to develop and strengthen relationships with nonprofits, and in her role at CAC she will continue to build partnerships with like-minded organizations and change agents, such as the CCLBA and others.”
Complementing her impressive CV with the City of Chicago and other organizations, Gorski comes to CAC with several awards and accolades, including the Rome Prize for Historic Preservation from the American Academy in Rome (2002–2003), AIA’s Distinguished Service Award (2020), and the ULI Chicago Women’s Leadership Initiative Breakthrough Award (2019). Double majoring in Art History and History at Penn State University, Gorski went on to receive her Master’s in Architecture from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
She currently lives in Chicago.
“I am delighted to join the Chicago Architecture Center, an organization that has been a source of inspiration to me personally and professionally for decades,” remarked Gorski. “I have worked throughout my career to deploy the power of design to positively impact the communities in which we live and work, and I look forward to working alongside the professionals and passionate docents who power this organization to expand the CAC’s impact on the hundreds of thousands of visitors, students and community members it reaches each year.”
Current exhibits at CAC’s riverfront home at 111 E. Wacker Drive are SAY IT LOUD, Energy Revolution, a group show of watercolor paintings depicting the Chicago River entitled Intimate Views, and the perennial crowd-pleaser, the Chicago Model City Experience, which is now in its 13th year. CAC’s roster of in-person programming and tours, including its wildly popular architectural river cruise aboard Chicago’s First Lady, are back and in full swing following a shift to virtual programming during the early months of the pandemic.