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Open House New York Offers Free Access to Architectural Wonders This Weekend

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This weekend's Open House New York celebration will offer New Yorkers free access to places they can't easily visit, everything from the Atlantic Avenue Tunnel, the world's oldest subway tunnel, to a museum of models of the work of the architect Richard Meier.

The celebration, the organization's seventh, will feature over 350 talks, tours, performances and programs on sites that showcase the architectural, design, engineering and cultural heritage of the city's five boroughs. The website; a video on YouTube.

Activities will include tours of the legendary Apollo Theater, recently renovated by Beyer Blinder and Belle Architects; the newly-opened High Line, by James Corner Field Operations and Diller Scofidio + Renfro; the Slot House in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, a home modest in size but full of innovative, space-saving features; and the Brooklyn studio of sculptor Tom Otterness.

Many sites that have participated in the OHNY weekend in the past will once again be open to the public, including Alice Austin House, Angels and Accordions at the Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn Navy Yard, Ellis Island's South Side and Ferry Building, Grand Lodge of Masons, Murray's Cheese, Seven World Trade Center, and Queens Botanical Garden. Many of these tours require advance reservations.

The celebration also features a number of family programs, everything from a festival at the Center for Architecture, with drawing, mask-making and other activities, to a tour of the Little Red Lighthouse near the George Washington Bridge.

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There will also be an opening party to kick off the weekend on Friday night, Oct. 9, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Visionaire, the greenest residential development in the U.S., designed by Pelli Clark Pelli. Tickets are $30 in advance and $40 at the door.

OHNY also is offering an OHNY Weekend Passport; a $150 contribution gives two people front-of-the-line access to sites and programs that do not require an advance reservation.

Scott Lauer, an architect who founded OHNY, said he was originally inspired by a similar event he saw while living in London. "When I moved back, I was determined that people here have the same opportunity to explore the city's amazing architecture," he said, noting that sites open to OHNY participants are "as diverse as the city itself."

Lauer also said the economic downturn would not affect this year's offerings.

Besides this weekend's celebration, OHNY offers year-round programming on New York's architectural, urban and historical development.