Chicago Public Schools

Chicago, IL


  • Title: Chicago Public Schools
  • Subtitle: Chicago, IL
  • Phase: complete


Discoursing with the site at multiple levels, this scheme seeks to define a pedagogical model for universal and small school design. Of particular importance to the project is the inclusion of the entire site in the development of the school. The bifurcation of the site at Cornelia Avenue is a critical opportunity to engage the neighborhood at an urban level. Public functions of the program are sited at the street edge allowing the building to engage individuals with layers of transparency that reveal public activities occurring within. These public functions additionally serve as unifying elements between the north and south portions of the site, which are more suited for private functions. Movement through the site is conceived as topological and manifests itself in the articulation of all the architecture. Program envelops and is penetrated by a river of circulation that gently slopes and carves interior and exterior space from within the site. As the river flows across the site the topographical changes allow all users to experience the site with equality. The grade change is subtle, providing an ease of effort to traverse the site and not require handrails along the slope. The slope is also deliberate enough to allow multiple levels, conserving space on the site, and creating a processional circulation for ease of navigation. The river pools into lobby spaces, around which classrooms are organized in lieu of restrictive corridors, allowing freedom of movement and congregational activity. The expression of topography is also reflected in the roof planes providing a visual cohesiveness and a residential scale within the neighborhood. Critical to our psychological human condition is our primal need of a sense of belonging. This sense is explored within the context of small schools within a larger school complex as a series of rubrics. The elementary elements are structured as three schools, each school is comprised of one set of 1st through 8th grade classrooms. Within each school, classrooms are arranged around open lobby space to encourage socialization within each of the classroom groupings. The building articulation slips walls past one another to allow momentary glimpses from one school to another. Sited at the southern section of the site, the schools collectively shape a distinct form that defines another tier of dimensional unity. The early childhood elements are organized similarly at the northern edge of the site with visual connections to the shared programmatic spaces. These vistas allow the younger children to be exposed to the activity of the older children within the security of their own environment. The topographical nature of the project allows numerous scattered sections of clerestory glass in the interstitial spaces of the roof planes. The clerestory glass brings natural light into large open spaces, which in turn distributes light through translucent ceilings into individual classrooms. Subsequently circulation space can be tempered separately from the classrooms to accommodate energy savings.