The new High School replaces the existing Benjamin Wright Raymond Public School located in the south side of the city of Chicago. Vacant lots and deteriorating buildings abound in the surrounding neighbourhood of the school. To increase the density and consequently, the vitality of this Bronzeville neighbourhood, this project occupies the entire block and envelopes the historic Bee building built in 1929.
The program for the Academy includes classrooms with common areas for studying, eating and playing to accommodate 700 students in grades 6-12. The idea of the project is to relate this program with a commercial and more public area for the community to encourage the interaction between the school and its surroundings. This commercial zone is created along the State Street just west of the elevated train. Underneath the train tracks, is a cover walkway in which pedestrians can access both the commercial areas and the school gymnasium or see the students’ work in the school’s workshops. The program has a gradation from this public area more related with the neighbour and the more private on the east side that houses the school program.
The whole building is wrapped in perforated panels of corten steel. The density of perforations within the façade directly correlate with the program – the more public the space, the more open the panel.
Inside the building the program is grouped in different cells. Classrooms are grouped in various configurations around courtyards that provide light and natural ventilation. Each courtyard has a unique character related to the different grade levels, so the students’ spatial experiences changes over the course of their six years.