5 LU / HSW
Early Learning Center inspires curiosity, encourages interaction, and connects to outdoors. This facility, driven by community workshops, offers a setting customized to early learners—colorful curving patterns, places to gather and explore, a large courtyard, and thematic learning gardens. The 57,000-square-foot center consolidates in one building all early learning programs, previously dispersed at facilities throughout the district. The child-sized blue door that welcomes students is the first of many features that give the district’s earliest learners “a place that is theirs.” The administrative area just off the entry includes a family support center and family learning center.
Post-occupancy survey reveals CCSD59 Early Learning Center design capitalizes on outdoor learning and the power of play to change attitudes. The survey and workshop gathered observations of nearly 50 faculty and staff members, who shared their opinions on everything from how often classes use each space to the air and light quality within the building. When asked about their favorite spaces, most survey respondents named either the three learning gardens or the large outdoor courtyard. When the weather cooperates, classes typically go outside in 30- to 45-minute increments in both the morning and the afternoon. In regards to the large motor skills courtyard, 70% of respondents said 5 to 8 times a day, while 17% said 2 to 5 times a day. Most other respondents were administrators based in other district facilities.
“Usually our early learners have separation anxiety and cry during drop-off out front. After our first month open, we noticed the reverse—that several students were upset that they had to leave the facility! We appreciate that this environment helps the students feel comfortable to explore and makes learning fun.” ~ Tony Rossi, Executive Director of Facilities, CCSD59
In the late 1930s, Winnetka superintendent Carleton Washburne asked for a school that would “encourage spontaneity, variation, initiation, creative work and independent thinking.” As a result, Crow Island Elementary School is typically regarded as the first modern elementary school in America. Designed in collaboration with Eliel and Eero Saarinen, this school established Perkins&Will’s reputation as innovative and sensitive school architects.
The school was the first of its type to be zoned by age group, with four classroom wings surrounding a common activity core. Each classroom is a self-contained unit; an L-shaped space with its own workroom, outdoor study/play courtyard, restroom, sink, and drinking fountain.
More than 80 years after the school was opened, it remains one of the most imaginatively and effectively-designed educational facilities of our time. The school has earned many accolades, including being selected as the 12th Most Significant Building in the Past 100 Years in America by Architectural Record (1956) and being award the National 25 Year Award for Designs of Enduring Significance by the American Institute of Architects (1971).
When River Trails SD 26 (RTSD) needed a dedicated school for its growing enrollment of PK/K learners, it repurposed an outmoded 1960s-era facility that had been privately leased to create the Prairie Trails Early Learning Center (PT-ELC). RTSD has a comprehensive commitment to sustainable practices ranging from its facilities to school operations and curriculum. For this reason, the RTSD board approved a deep energy retrofit of the existing building that went beyond simply achieving net zero energy. This trailblazing renovation is Illinois’ first net-zero energy school (all required electricity is generated by solar panels on the roof and other energy savings design elements) that also meets the 2018 PHIUS+ Source Zero project standard, meaning it uses 40-60% less energy than conventional buildings. The District received a $2 million grant from the Illinois Clean Energy Foundation in support of its sustainable design and construction.
Opened in fall 2021, PT-ELC is a model of sustainable design that provides a healthy indoor/outdoor learning environment for children with an integrated curriculum that brings science, nature, technology and sustainability to life. The new PT-ELC serves 300+ Pre-K and Kindergarten students in a fully accessible building with 18 classrooms and additional spaces for early intervention services as well as fine arts. A flexible multi-purpose room is used as a gym, eating area, or gathering space for group activities. PT-ELC’s overall design is based on the understanding that flexible learning spaces with flexible furniture, maximal natural light, a color palette that features earth tones in the flooring and brightly color walls with sustainable, low maintenance materials/finishes combine to support learning achievement. PT-ELC’s outdoor space provides areas that offer quiet spots for children to talk and interact in small groups or be by themselves and observe nature. These are also excellent spaces for silent reading, journal writing, and drawing.
5 LU / HSW
Sherlock Elementary School is a 4-story school that provides a fully equipped 21st century learning environment for over 600 students in Grades PK-6. This tour showcases an innovative and unconventional learning environment that is designed to promote “learning everywhere.”
Nestled in a densely populated urban neighborhood on the western edge of Chicago, Sherlock Elementary offers unique spatial forms, vibrant and fun finishes, and an abundance of transparency. The building design demonstrates the transformative power of natural light, with full-height windows and a serpentine curtain wall spanning along the building’s west facade. The building layout focuses around a single-loaded corridor, connecting classroom neighborhoods that wrap around double-height Extended Learning Areas on the 2nd and 3rd floors. The glass walls and windows throughout the building provide an interior exterior connection, foster collaboration, and put learning on display – illustrating the “learning everywhere” philosophy. Color usage, textured floor patterns and fun flexibly furniture enhance and promote an exciting learning environment.
The Exploratorium on the 4th floor houses the Media Center, STEM Lab, Maker Space, Art Room, and the building’s mechanical rooms. The unique shape of the Exploratorium provides a fun, flexible, and exciting learning space for the teachers and students. Many unique educational tools are provided throughout the space. Sherlock’s ground level house a new secure main entry and admin spaces, the Pre-K and Kindergarten classroom neighborhood and Music Classroom, as well as the cafeteria and gymnasium. These rooms have access to the outdoor playgrounds and plazas. The large plazas wrap around the front of the building and benches and planters are provided to create gathering spaces for students as well as the community throughout the day.
Sherlock Elementary School is both a neighborhood school, and community center – a hub for learning, and a beacon of safety and opportunity.
Using evidence based-research methods inserting radical empathy by walking in the shoes and looking through the lens of students physical, emotional, and neurological diversities. Our case study: A.E.R.O. Therapeutic Center in the underserved community of Burbank, IL, is a brand-new facility specifically designed for physical and neurodiversities, ages 3 to 24 years. The overarching goal for the Therapeutic Center is for the architecture to support the reduction of environmental stress for all users. Research was derived to understand the diverse needs of differently abled students and to radically empathize through the lens of the users. A therapeutic center for education should be a safe-haven for students; it should be a warm welcoming environment that fosters independence and resilience for what their future my hold while maintaining dignity.
Research will be shared in two areas – Key Environmental Factors including: sensory loading, transitions, overlapping, geographic stressors, biophilia, and care. Research Approaches and Architectural Implications including: health Intelligence and consultation, assistive technologies and adaptive education tools, teacher and staff wellness, visual clutter, color, movement, nutrition, natural and artificial lighting and acoustics. Research will show how the project was designed to enhance teaching and learning through specifically designed environments for better health, reduced stress, equity, diversity, and inclusion. This research and project is a game changer for all learning environments in our post-covid world.
5 LU / HSW
Wight’s master plan for Stevenson has a progressive view toward student health and wellness that began with instituting healthy menu options and upgrading servery and dining areas. Dining areas support collaboration, mixing students and staff throughout the facility with student resource areas adjacent to these spaces. The East Building Additions expanded this collaborative environment into two areas, the East Building classroom addition, and the Patriot Wellness Center. The $27M classroom addition addresses growing enrollment and provides new learning environments. The new facility includes world language classrooms, maker labs, and multi-purpose presentation spaces for conferences and extended learning, as well as five advanced physics and engineering program labs. Unique aspects of the science spaces include reconfigurable labs with multiple teaching surfaces and a two-story atrium for vertical drops and robotics experiments. Rooftop teaching spaces to support biology and botany include a greenhouse and exterior gardens, where food is produced to demonstrate a farm-to-fork approach. This building earned Zero Energy Certification from the International Living Future Institute and was recognized as the first non-residential verified zero energy building in the State of Illinois. The $60M health and wellness improvements include an expanded field house and the addition of an 83,000-square foot wellness facility called the Patriot Wellness Center. Features of these projects include an indoor turf field, a 200-meter track, cardio and strength training areas, state-of-the-art trainer facilities, locker rooms, and multi-purpose rooms. These features are focused on general student use and are open to students before and after school. A healthy foods cafe with corresponding space for nutrition instruction rounds out the programmed space geared toward overall student health and wellness. This project is pursuing LEED certification and Certification through the WELL Building Standard. The fieldhouse portion of the building is expected to achieve LEED Zero Energy Certification.
DePaul College Prep is a private catholic high school serving an expanding population that endeavors to serve up to 1,400 enrolled students.
The facility is a campus of two-story buildings – starting with repurposing of two existing buildings, then expanding the facilities through a multi-phase/ multi-year masterplan that adds new athletic fields, a new classroom building addition, redeveloped landscape design for outdoor learning spaces, and a future new athletic fieldhouse building.
DePaul College Prep originally considered replanning another campus it was renting, when a nearby private college vacated facilities relevant for reuse. The scope of project services to DePaul College Prep then expanded to develop two comparative studies: one for their existing campus, and another study for feasibility of repurposing the vacant college facilities. At conclusion of the comparative feasibility studies, the option to move to the new campus provided the best long-term opportunities for DePaul College Prep to advance their mission while accommodating their projected enrollment growth.
Throughout the process, the design team partnered with a local general contractor to deliver the studies, design and construction services - all through a design/build process.
This project tour tells the story about the comparative feasibility study process, why the decision to move to an existing building worked for DePaul College Prep, how the repurposing and campus expansion developed, and how the design/build delivery process worked to serve this client under fast-track design and construction schedules that also aligned with the school’s academic calendar.
5 LU / HSW
John Hancock College Preparatory High School forms a community nucleus within Chicago’s Clearing neighborhood. It enables its students (94% Hispanic, 82% from economically disadvantaged families) to ascend from a 1950s-era building to a campus that prioritizes learning and community connections. Those on the tour will learn how design of the 178,000-square-foot facility acoustically and aesthetically responds to the Chicago Midway International Airport just three blocks away. Attendees will also discover how the project encouraged inclusion, from gathering community input to building a diverse design and construction team.
One stop on the tour includes Chicago Public Schools’ flagship black box theater. The 4,500-square-foot theater with 300 seats reinforces Hancock High School’s focus on the arts. Complete with an extensive catwalk, sound booth, modular seating, and advanced AV equipment, this theater enables students to reinvent theatrical productions by eliminating the traditional stage and allowing for 360-degree performances.
In 2015, Perkins&Will was hired by the Park District of Oak Park to conduct a feasibility study for a new community recreation and aquatics center. Located in an urban very diverse Village outside of Chicago, Perkins&Will undertook a robust community engagement process and developed multiple program recommendations, market analysis, and demand projections, and lead strategic partnership discussions for the new facility. This new urban community center will provide the Village a Net-Zero facility that includes the following program elements: Phase 1: Indoor Walking Track Fitness Center Group Exercise Studios Three Gymnasiums Community Meeting Rooms Activity Lounge eSports Studio Child Watch Center Party Rooms Inclusive Locker Rooms Wellness Suite Phase 2: Indoor Aquatics Center Expanded Party Rooms.
Oak Park and River Forest High School (OPRF), an iconic Chicago area school, was founded in 1871; the present school opened in 1907. While portions of OPRF were later expanded/renovated, the last significant changes were made in 1968.
IMAGINE OPRF master-plan is a multi-year transformation of Oak Park and River Forest High School (OPRF) designed to create a more equitable 21st century learning environment for the diverse community of 3,400 students. IMAGINE OPRF includes 5 student-centered projects that will result in a full-building transformation, including new and renovated learning, social, athletic and support spaces.
This tour will be focused on Project 1. Key components are a renovated main entrance, Welcome Center, Student Commons, a 3-story addition housing the South Cafeteria and Student Resource Center (SRC). Additional components include the renovation/creation of 80+ classrooms, laboratories, and extended learning spaces along with spaces that advance equity including gender-neutral toilet rooms and ADA-compliant elevators.
The SRC houses critical services including a Library, Makerspace, Tutoring Center and Technology Help Desk. Previously scattered located remotely, difficult to supervise and access after school hours. The ground floor South Cafeteria features a variety of seating options for social engagement as well as individual focus. These spaces are now open to students before and after the school day, a critical dimension of equity.
The renovated main entrance and Welcome Center, designed to be both inviting and unobtrusively secure, lead to the transformed Student Commons. The raised entry to the auditorium within the commons was expanded to provide an ADA accessible ramp and extended learning/ pre-function space gathering space. This space also includes a balcony extension on the 2ns floor that opens up to art gallery/gathering space.
OPRF is a vibrant example of honoring the heritage of a historic school while transforming it into an equitable, 21st century learning environment.
5 LU / HSW
In response to student and community concerns regarding school safety and security, Niles Township High School District embarked on an endeavor to enhance Niles North High School. During the planning phase of the project, the District and design team identified opportunities to not only improve school safety, but also address concerns of overcrowding, lack of flexible, collaborative spaces, and disjointed student social areas that had challenged the landlocked school for years. These conversations developed into a three-story, 43,000 square foot addition and 26,000 square foot renovation project that includes new spaces for parent / guardian and visitor services, collaborative learning studios, classrooms, staff mothers’ / wellness rooms, student commons, meeting spaces, and renovated library.
The tour will highlight how a tertiary security zone was created with the building addition for spaces frequented by outside visitors, while separating these guests from the secure student side of the school. New student areas celebrate the diversity and inclusion of the student body (over 90 languages spoken) by promoting collaboration in various modalities, in both informal and formal settings. As part of the District’s vision to continue growing community partnerships, social spaces used by students during the daytime also serve the public after-hours. The student entry area transforms to the Theater pre-function event space, and the learning studio / Skyloft commons space can host adult education, student club sessions, and evening meetings. The school’s Library was also completely renovated, with a focus on providing modern-day supports and services to students, while also preserving focused individual and group study areas. The planning and design process focused on student engagement and input throughout, with student groups meeting alongside the design team to provide feedback on floor plans, aesthetics, furniture selections, and even room names. Student engagement also continued into the construction phase with tours of the site to engineering and architecture classes.
The Bridges Adult Transition Center in Lincolnwood, built for Niles THSD 219, is a state-of-the-art facility uniquely designed for universal access to the distinctive needs of students with disabilities aged 18-22. Studio GC collaborated with the Niles THSD 219 Administration Team to identify desired program outcomes and created a built-environment alignment to support those goals, with student agency at the forefront of our mission. Simulation Labs, including Office, Laundry, Kitchen, and Custodial spaces, allow students to learn relevant technical and collaborative skills in a personalized environment. Each lab is designed to emulate the working environment of its specific industry, providing practical opportunities for students to learn the necessary skills to excel in these fields. A one-bedroom Apartment Lab creates a safe and supportive environment where students can learn essential interpersonal skills in a practical setting. In this simulation, students can learn how to host dinner parties, invite friends over, and reach a consensus on leisure activities - skills that are often overlooked but vital for twice-exceptional and neurodiverse students. The Target Superstore Lab is a groundbreaking public-private partnership and the first of its kind in the nation, providing Bridges students with invaluable retail work experience. Increasing access to employment opportunities is crucial to creating global citizens in our communities. The Learning Labs are designed with inclusive, accessible features to create a safe and comfortable learning environment for all students. Writing surfaces span the entire length and width of the walls to ensure that physical limitations are not a barrier to participation. This universal design approach set a high standard to go beyond just meeting code requirements. All selected furniture is easily adjustable to address every student’s specific needs, providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all. Calming nooks are also available for students to take breaks and self-regulate without isolation.
An Intergenerational Community Hub – West Ridge is one of Chicago’s most diverse neighborhoods in terms of income, ethnicity, race, religion and age. Residents enjoy a tapestry of cultures and ideas, but, as demographics change, many local seniors found fewer and fewer housing options they could afford. Enter this innovative collocation project, one of three in Chicago and among the first in the nation, which combines the amenities of the local library with 44 affordable apartments for seniors to encourage life-long learning. A colorful mural by a neighborhood artist adorns the lobby, anchoring the community at street level. Residents of the apartments enjoy generous daylight and views of the neighboring park, along with improved access to the library and public transportation. Today, West Ridge residents of all ages live, learn, and socialize in this forward-thinking space serving as a model for collocated housing in other cities.
Size: 65,000 square feet
Completion Date: 2019
Sustainability: LEED for Homes
AIA/ALA Library Building Award
AIA National and the American Library Association/Library Leadership and Management Association, 2020
Design Excellence Awards, Interior Architecture Merit Award
AIA Chicago, 2020
Best of Year Winner, Greater Good: Social Impact
Interior Design Magazine, 2020
Merit Award, Residential/Hospitality
Chicago Building Congress, 2020
Spaces, Places and Cities Category Finalist
2019 Fast Company World Changing Ideas Award
Unbuilt Civic Finalist
5 LU / HSW
A LEED Silver Certified building.
On this tour, you will visit the newly renovated Addison School District 4 Indian Trail Junior High School Innovation Center. The space, which had not been updated since it was built in 1971, offered no natural light, plus its circular shape made it difficult to navigate. The renovated space reorients the entry from the student entrance to the commons, replaces opaque walls with glass putting the space on display and added clerestory windows to provide natural daylight into the space. Color and materials are used to identify circulation paths for improved way finding and focal points that highlight special program spaces.
A new school without a single conventional classroom! Join this thought-provoking discussion and tour exploring how School District 81 broke the mold of conventional teaching and learning to design a bold 21st Century school that engages learners through child-centered teaching and play-based learning. This experience will inspire educators and designers to create learning environments that encourage innovation, collaboration, and critical thinking by using light, color, shapes, and space.
The new school reflects the unique needs of the intermediate grades and encourages the play and exploration that is connected to learning. The two-story facility has plenty of open spaces, with learning taking place in “Neighborhoods.” Each Neighborhood is a central, flexible Hub surrounded by 4 Learning Studios called Homes. Students move between these flexible, varied instructional areas that allow for problem-based learning, collaboration among students, and flexibility to work in large or small groups, or even individually. Soft seating is easy to rearrange, and students write on dry-erase walls and surfaces, encouraging them to be spontaneous and share their thoughts and work. Reading nooks where students can cozy up with a book or work with a partner are a favorite feature, and help students retreat to a quiet spot when needed. The Home Rooms and Learning Hubs promote independence and student-centered learning. The media center and learning staircase welcome students and guests into the building and invite them to connect with one another and the school community. The slide is an educational tool used to reset students who need a brain break or reset their mood and energy levels to optimize learning. It is a subtle reminder that this is a place for children. It supports the vision for creating a playful, joyful, and happy learning environment.