As many American architects know too well, public schools in the U.S. lose out big-time on the scale of invention compared to their European and Asian counterparts. With the tight budgets and detailed restrictions handed down by school authorities, it is the rare architect who can be both ingenious and pragmatic. Yet John Ronan Architects (with DeStefano + Partners as architect of record) show it is possible with the South Shore International College Prep High School in Chicago.
This is not a normal public high school: The Chicago Public Schools agency has made it part of a program that prepares students for college. A school administrator says half the students are admitted city-wide, while the other half are students from the neighborhood south of Jackson Park who meet minimum academic requirements. Role models from the past loom: Financial advisor Suze Orman, Oracle founder Larry Ellison, and Nobel Prize–winner James D. Watson all went to the old South Shore High.