Mission & History


Open House New York provides broad audiences with unparalleled access to the extraordinary architecture of New York and to the people who help design, build, and preserve the city. Through its year-round programs and the annual OHNY Weekend, Open House New York celebrates the best examples of design and planning throughout the five boroughs, from historic to contemporary, and helps foster a more informed conversation about how architecture and urban design sustain New York as a vibrant place to live, work, and learn. Open House New York is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.



Open House New York is the second city, following London, of what has become a worldwide movement to engage a broad public in a conversation about architecture, public space, and the future of urban life. Open House London was founded by Victoria Thornton in 1992. Thornton’s motivation was a simple one: open to the public the buildings that Londoners walk past everyday and in doing so foster a greater appreciation of the built environment. The Open House model was transferred to New York City in 2001 by OHNY founder Scott Lauer, a volunteer for Open House London before returning to his native United States. Taking shape in the months and years immediately following September 11, 2001, OHNY became an important platform for celebrating New York at a critical moment in its history. At a time when much of the city was closing itself off through increased security measures, OHNY offered a countervailing force, one that advocated for openness and access as key components of an enlightened and vibrant civic life. There are now more than thirty Open House cities around the world, ranging from Tel Aviv to Barcelona to Melbourne. Each Open House city is run as an independent organization but all adhere to a shared set of values and ideals.

The first Open House New York Weekend was held in 2003 as part of the city’s first Architecture Week. With the help of three hundred volunteers, the first Annual OHNY Weekend included 84 sites in all five boroughs. Since the inaugural year, the event has grown exponentially, increasing its outreach and audience participation; the number of sites, talks and tours; and developing additional thematic and interpretive programming. The 2015 OHNY Weekend had more than 250 participating sites and tours with an estimated 80,000 visitors and more than 1,200 registered volunteers. 

In addition to OHNY Weekend, Open House New York organizes an expanded schedule of year-round programs that extends the conversation that begins during the two days of the Weekend. Programs include OHNY Previews, which opens up significant new works of contemporary architecture and infrastructure for public tours; the Open Studios series, in which architecture and design firms within a given neighborhood open their studios to the public for a Saturday afternoon of talks and presentations; and the ongoing Urban Systems Series, year-long thematic programs that explore important issues in New York City’s built environment, from manufacturing, food, and technology. Open House New York’s year-round programs are a significant platform for fostering discussion about how the city takes shape in the years ahead and address issues including planning, preservation, infrastructure, and contemporary design.

OHNY is a member of Open House Worldwide, a global network of Open House events. Official members include Open House LondonOpen House ChicagoOpen House RomeOpen House Tel AvivOpen House Dublin,  Open House Melbourne, Open House Barcelona, Open House SloveniaOpen House Helsinki, Open House Lisbon, Open House Vienna, Open House Buenos Aires, and more.


Other related Open House events and cities include:

Denver, Colorado, Doors Open Denver
Lowell, Massachusetts, Doors Open Lowell
Niagara, Ontario, Canada / USA, Doors Open Niagara
Ontario, Canada, Doors Open Ontario
Scotland, Doors Open Days
Swansea, Wales, Swansea Open House
Toronto, Canada, Doors Open Toronto
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Doors Open Milwaukee
European Union, European Heritage Days