William Jones College Preparatory High School recently opened in August 2013 signaling a new era in education for Chicago’s public school students and new possibilities for urban school design. Perkins+Will professionals balanced the school’s complex design in a tight urban space within Chicago’s South Loop by creating a seven-story building filled with light and open spaces for learning and congregating. The 278,000 square foot school, serving 1,200 students in grades 9-12, is on track for LEED Gold certification.
The design process was led by Perkins+Will’s Global Design Director, Ralph Johnson, and is a testament to Perkins+Will’s ingenuity.
“Our goal was to bring innovative architecture to achieve educational gains and re-imagine the possibilities for urban education,” Johnson said. “It also is an opportunity to create a new model for city schools in the U.S. and abroad.”
In order to maintain the feeling of school-as-community center, the Perkins+Will design team used a “stacked” approach to the seven-story building, placing classrooms in the middle on the fourth and fifth floors between shared spaces below (lunchroom, library and auditorium) and above (natatorium and gymnasium).
Jones College Prep is filled with light and openness. Floor-to-ceiling windows extend along the entire eastern side of the building and outdoor space abounds with expansive terraces adjoin the library, cafeteria and athletic facilities. Hallways and staircases were widened to encourage interaction and greater physical activity.
The school’s north/south orientation exposes the building to long periods of intense sunlight. Opaque panels were placed on the building’s façade in order to help calibrate light and solar heat. With their commitment to environmental stewardship, the Perkins+Will team added a “green roof” and designed a “green alley” which pipes water collected on the roof and terraces through the building to be stored beneath the porous concrete of the pavement before being released into the city’s sewer system.
Throughout the design and construction process, the Perkins+Will team was attentive to making the school very much a part of its urban community. Terracotta-colored precast concrete wall panels on the exterior of the school reference the brick on the neighboring historic buildings on Printers Row to the west. As the school faces out to its neighbors, it also is intended to draw them in: the 475-seat state-of-the-art auditorium, swimming pool and gymnasium were designed to be available for public use.
Perkins+Will is also renovating the original Jones Prep building, following a 2013 decision to incorporate the older school into the campus. Together, the buildings will house 1,700 students by 2016, up from 900 in the old building. Jones Prep is one of the country’s highest performing public high schools, which Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel praised in announcing the added enrollment.
“With this expansion, we are able to nearly double the number of students who have access to a high-quality, rigorous academic environment that will help them succeed,” said Mayor Emanuel.
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