Yesterday was the annual ritual known as Reservation Day for Open House New York Weekend. It is an intense day for everyone who participates and, regardless of how successful you might have been in getting the tours you wanted, a day that generates a range of emotions that run from exhilaration through to frustration and anger. Underlying it all is confusion and disbelief–there is no way, we hear over and over, that an architecture festival could generate so much activity. But as inconceivable as this may seem, it does. It is with tongue only slightly in cheek that we like to say that what Adele is to concerts or Hamilton is to Broadway musicals, OHNY Weekend is to buildings.

I’ll skip the superlatives because I think the numbers tell a powerful enough story. By 5:00 pm yesterday, 11,222 Advance Reservations had been made; 10,000 of those were booked in the first sixty minutes after reservations opened at 11 am. According to Google Analytics, we had upwards of 37,000 users on our web site yesterday, who viewed more than 340,000 pages. If it seemed like all of the tours sold out immediately, it is because in large part they did. Not because they were presold or–to refute one of our favorite conspiracy theories–because scalper bots bought them all; it is because there were literally tens of thousands of people competing for what is ultimately a limited number of tickets. To put yesterday’s unprecedented reservation tally in some historical context, on the comparable day last year, we processed 7,000 reservations, which was itself a record-breaker.

We know that these numbers will not diminish the disappointment of not getting the tour(s) you wanted. To say that those of us at OHNY are conflicted about the issue of reservations is an understatement. In an ideal world, there would be no reservations at all and every site would be Open Access. But the reality is that there are sites, often for reasons of security or space, that need to limit the number of visitors. If we did not have the option of Advance Reservations, it is not a question that these sites would have to decline to participate. For now, we stand on the belief that limited access is better than none at all. But please know that we read and take to heart all of your comments, and are always considering ways to make improvements.

But I also want to stress that to focus only on the Advance Reservation sites–or worse, to boycott the Weekend altogether because a specific tour was no longer available–is to miss the whole point of Open House New York Weekend. Nearly 150 buildings will be Open Access this OHNY Weekend, meaning you do not need a reservation at all. This is a list that includes some of the most beautiful, inspiring, and iconic spaces in New York, from Stanford White’s stunning Gould Memorial Library to the Brooklyn Army Terminal to City Hall.

To help you make connections to this incredible trove of sites, for the first time ever, we have posted on each sold out Advance Reservation site’s page at least one suggestion for an Open Access alternative, sites that are similar in design or program for which you need absolutely no reservations! Wanted to go Google? Try the Made in NY Media Center by IFP. Missed out on Newtown Creek? Check out the Sunset Park Material Recovery Facility. Visit the pages of all the Advance Reservation tours you hoped for and there will be an Open Access alternative that you can visit instead, no reservation necessary.

Whatever else there is to say about yesterday, we still stand in awe of what this intense activity reveals about the extraordinary depth of interest and passion that so many people have for this city. It is a testament to what a powerful idea OHNY Weekend is: that for one weekend a year, doors are opened and access is granted to places and spaces that are otherwise off limits to us. OHNY Weekend reminds us that this city that we live in together is our single most important shared resource, and its buildings and public spaces and infrastructure are fundamental to shaping the nature and quality of the lives we live.

Thank you for your ongoing support of Open House New York and we hope you have a wonderful OHNY Weekend!

Gregory Wessner
Executive Director