Exterior William Jones Prep
Exterior William Jones Prep

William Jones College Preparatory High School

Chicago, Illinois
A New Approach to Planning

This project provided an opportunity to rethink how schools are designed in dense neighborhoods. Typically, school campuses sprawl over several acres but this was not possible on the constrained site.

This was an exciting challenge. The team built consensus among stakeholders including city government, community members, and administrators to create a vision for the school that prioritized wellness. Large windows welcome light and outdoor terraces provide spaces for respite several stories above street level. Stairways are wide and centrally located, encouraging movement and chance encounters on the way to class.

Another element was the inclusion of the gym and swimming pool. Unlike at most high schools, these are located on level seven so more money could be spent on learning spaces instead of structure. Today, Jones students learn in a dynamic, efficiently planned building in the heart of downtown Chicago.

What It Is
A high school that stacks vertically to fit in with the dense urban neighborhood.
School Lobby
A 3-story Lobby and pre-function space supports a 500- seat Auditorium which can be shared with the public for afterhours use.
The school welcomes external partners into the building, and also utilizes the city’s local museums and institutions as a curriculum opportunity. This reinforces the concept of urban density by sharing space and amenities: a sustainable, space-saving solution.
Student Corridor
A central commons space opens up along the main student corridors, providing circulation relief and natural light.
Each stairway is widened to support student interaction and has abundant natural light with views out.
How can we design an engaging, inspiring school with such little space?

The solution: Everything was planned within the existing footprint. No additional land was needed. Outdoor terraces, core academic spaces, and even a pool stack vertically on seven stories. Students enjoy more collaboration space than before and less time walking from class to class because space is flexible and efficiently planned. These concepts have influenced urban schools in several other cities, too.

Jones at Night
A high school that stacks vertically to fit in with the dense urban neighborhood.
High School Stacks
A unique stacking plan vertically disperses the program within a small site, expanding possibilities for urban educational design.

Associate Architect:
The Architects Enterprise, Ltd.

Project Team

Ralph Johnson
Chris Hale
Bryan Schabel
Aimee Eckmann
Kristin Rosebrough
Steve Turckes