Feature Friday: Wayne Johnson

Posted on July 13, 2018

Meet Wayne, a docent for the Chicago Architecture Foundation who has been a volunteer since 2016. Wayne shares his passion for Chicago and architecture with visitors and locals alike as a docent aboard the Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise. With his previous experience in network television, Wayne entertains guests on his tours through lively narration and storytelling. He also serves as a docent for the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust and gives tours at the Frank Lloyd Wright Robie House in Hyde Park. Outside of being a docent, Wayne also runs his own web and graphic design business as well as a Youtube channel that features lifestyle segments on cooking, entertaining, crafts and more. Read Wayne's interview below to learn more about him. 

Why did you become a docent?
I’ve always been passionate about architecture and have been a Chicagoan for almost 40 years. I love this city and enjoy sharing it with family, friends, and guests alike. 

Tell us about your most interesting job.
I was a food and lifestyle expert for the Today Show and the local NBC affiliate in Chicago. I’ve done over 400 live on-camera segments in Chicago covering everything from food and lifestyle to exploring the city and woodworking.

As a child, what did you want to do when you “grew up”?
I wanted to be an architect and stared college as an architecture major. But, I shifted my focus to advertising and marketing at The University of Texas. But, I now get my architecture fix from being a docent with the Chicago Architecture Foundation.

What is your favorite building on the tour and why?
My favorite building is 333 Wacker Drive because of its curvilinear design that acknowledges the river and represents a wonderful example of post-modern design. I’m also becoming a fan of the new Vista tower as it continues to rise skyward.

Tell us about a memorable experience aboard the river cruise.
I had the pleasure of giving a private tour to the folks at Apple Computer the weekend of the grand opening of their flagship store at Michigan Avenue and the river. In addition to the guests from Apple, I also met members of the building’s design team. Another memorable experience was the day I certified to become a river cruise docent. My brother and his family, along with 3 dear friends, were there for support and the response from departing guests was enthusiastically supportive.

Where did you grow up?
I primarily grew up in Texas. But, I was an army brat and lived in Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Texas, Washington, Alabama, Georgia and Okinawa, all before I was 13 years old.  

What are three passions of yours?

Where in Chicago are your favorite places to….

  • Unwind – Marty’s Martini Bar in Andersonville or Gibson’s Italia along the river
  • Experience the great outdoors – The lakefront near Montrose Harbor on quiet weekdays in the fall
  • Grab a great cup of coffee/tea – Emerald City Coffee in Uptown
  • Enjoy a delicious dinner –  A burger Au Cheval                                                                    
  • Play tourist for a day (besides the cruise of course!) –  Walking tour of Hyde Park including Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House and the campus of the University of Chicago

What’s something about Chicago (restaurant, activity, destination, etc) that is a “hidden gem” of yours?
Little Bad Wolf Restaurant in Andersonville

What is the most adventurous thing you've ever done?
Visiting the citadel of Machu Picchu

What is the next destination on your travel wish list?  
Madrid and Barcelona

What has been your most interesting customer interaction?
Running into a woman I hadn’t seen in 40 years who just happened to be on my river cruise.

What is something people are surprised to learn about you?  
That I can ride a unicycle.

What is your favorite building on the tour?
333 Michigan Avenue (and soon to be Vista)

What is your favorite part about being a docent?
Knowing people are learning new things about the city I love in a fun and enjoyable way