Program: A four-story, 17,000-square-foot addition to the kindergarten- to eighth-grade Erie Elementary School’s existing quarters in a former Catholic school in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood. The expansion, which replaces a convent next door, adds a gymnasium, a library, a computer lab, offices, classrooms for after-school programs and adult education, and an open-air playground on the top floor. Located on a narrow, 46-by-125-foot corner lot, the new building marries into the floor plan of the existing four-story school.
Design concept and solution: Before the expansion, Erie Elementary sorely lacked a gym, a playground, and dedicated classrooms for after-school programs. John Ronan Architects needed to squeeze these normally space-hogging functions into a compact, vertical building on a skinny lot. And the addition had to sync up with each level of the original school, which has extremely low floor-to-floor heights of just over ten feet. To keep the new building’s bones thin and capture every available inch, the design team opted for a steel brace frame structure with precast concrete panels. Using precast meant they could cut down on the number of beams and strategically locate walls underneath beams in order to raise ceiling heights. The architects ran bulky ductwork vertically and concentrated the lighter ducts over offices and other small rooms, reserving the tallest spaces for classrooms. On the exterior, crayon-hued precast panels interlock with a checkerboard of low-e-coated windows so dark they read as flat voids. (The open-air playground, set behind a black steel-mesh screen on the fourth floor, reads as another.) Thanks to the camouflaging effect of the charcoal-hued glass, the design team was able to push the windows beyond the floors and ceilings without calling attention to the window frames and floor structure. From the inside, the glazing has an edgeless quality that helps decompress the small spaces. The architects carried over this space-conscious approach to the interior color palette. Gray vinyl tiles transition to blocky patterns of blue, yellow, and red near windows and in light-filled spaces, such as the double-height lobby.
Client: Erie Elementary Charter School
Owner: Erie Elementary Charter School
Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:
Names listed in bold are registered architects
Interior designer: John Ronan Architects
General contractor: Norcon, Inc.
Credit: Steve Hall © Hedrich Blessing
Gross square footage:
17,470 gross square feet
Total project cost:
Total construction cost:
Manufacturer of any structural components unique to this project:
Metal Panels: Kingspan Insulated Panels
Metal/glass curtain wall: CMI Architectural Products, Inc.
Precast concrete insulated wall panels: Lombard Architectural Precast Products Company, polished finish by Barrier Corp.
EIFS, ACM, or other:
ACM: Alcoa Reynobond
Moisture barrier: Grace Construction Products
Curtain wall: CMI Architectural Products, Inc.
Insulated-panel or plastic glazing: Polygal
Wood doors: Algoma Hardwoods, Inc.
Fire-control doors, security grilles: Cookson Rolling Doors
Exit devices: Von Duprin
Pulls: Von Duprin
Suspension grid: Armstrong
Cabinetwork and custom woodwork: Joseph A. Interiors
Paints and stains: Sherwin-Williams
Wall coverings: Walltalkers
Plastic laminate: Nevamar, Pionite
Solid surfacing: Formica
Floor and wall tile: DalTile (toilet room wet walls)
Resilient flooring: Gerflor Sports Flooring, LLC (gymnasium); Armstrong Migrations
Reception furniture: By Others
Chairs: By Others