To save yourself some time, call ahead. Ask if it would be beneficial to make an appointment.
If a building has scheduled tours or is open to the public, you are in luck.
If the building is not typically open, respectfully assert that it’s for an architecture class and you may be surprised at the access you’re granted.
|“Visitors Tour the  SCI-Arc/Caltech House”|
Image courtesy of Dept of Energy Solar Decathlon via Flickr.
- If the person in charge of the door does not appear to have the authority, ask them who you might talk to about getting a tour (and be sure to get contact information).
- The person who takes care of a building (janitor) is the best person to take you on a tour. And if they have permission, they are usually delighted to do so.
- Be sure not to imply that the tour must be exhaustive. “May I see the main atrium for a couple of minutes?”
- Use your best manners. Remember that you are asking for a favor.
- Consider flattering the building by explaining to the “gatekeeper” why you want to see it.
- Do not try to access places that do not have safe access for the public (for example, the roof of a dome). Don’t even ask: it is a huge liability for the building owner and these places are often authentically dangerous.
- If all else fails, ask permission to just walk the grounds outside the building.
- Don’t try this with a high-security building… just choose another building.
- Carry a clipboard to write notes or sketch on: it communicates several things, including that you are who you say you are.
- If you do not have a tour guide, ask for a visitor badge so that all who see you know you are an approved guest.
- If you do not have a tour guide, be VERY clear on which spaces you are granted access to and which you are not.
CAUTION: This is serious business: if you fail to get permission, you may be accosted or arrested for trespassing.