Chicago Public Schools Design Competition (Phase One Winning Entry)

Completion: 2001 Site: Chicago, IL Size: 100,000sf

Winner of the International Chicago Public Schools Design Competition: Big Shoulders Small Schools, Phase One

Early in its history, the firm achieved recognition when it was selected as the Phase One Winner of the International Chicago Public Schools Design Competition: Big Shoulders Small Schools. This two-phase submission for a 100,000sf new elementary school on the North Side of Chicago, with a maximum budget of $100/SF, honed the firm’s skills in working with local community, school, and parent Boards to create a clear, innovative and wholly feasible and ADA-compliant building.

Conceptually the building acts as a pair of clasped hands, knuckles exposed. This image inspired LUBRANO CIAVARRA’s design for four small schools (grades Kindergarten through 5) linked by a spine of shared and sometimes overlapping spaces. By creating architectural elements that mediate varying levels of spatial intimacy, the building promotes education by demanding a level of self-awareness through conscious interaction.

Primary for LUBRANO CIAVARRA was to create a multi-purpose space we call the “anti-corridor”. In an attempt to avoid the endless hallway of the typical school, we effectively “erased” it by manipulating its edges and programming the space with activity. The wall surfaces that line this animated anti-corridor are interactive architectural elements. Made of 4’x8’ sheets of maple plywood, the walls are surfaces in which imagination and investigation can be encouraged. Each panel represents an individual child – when linked together they make a community. Each panel – like each child – can lead to new potentials. This use of coded constructions – either through the use of color, clearly recognizable building elements or other visual signifiers – are a design tool we use to reveal the spatial networks we create.