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Great Lakes Academy Expansion

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A beacon for the community.

Great Lakes Academy has doubled the size of their campus with an ambitious renovation of an unused church building adjacent to their existing academic building, connecting the two through a contemporary single-story glass link.

Located in the South Chicago neighborhood, the area was once the center of Chicago’s booming steel industry, from the beginning of the twentieth century through the 1950s when closures led to decades of disinvestment. The project revitalized most of a city block, building on the existing three-story brick masonry school that anchors the campus. Sustainability is considered throughout the project, minimizing new construction while leveraging existing building stock and implementing energy-efficient strategies.

The design combines old and new, with a contemporary glass link mediating between the solidity of the historic school and church buildings which date back to 1911 and 1952, respectively. This intervention is open and lightweight, with high-performance floor-to-ceiling glass, thermally broken curtainwall framing systems, and internally-lit skylights filling the space with natural light. Atop, a green roof reduces groundwater runoff, improves building thermal insulation, lessens the urban heat island, and offers enjoyable glimpses of green from above and below.

The former church now serves as a flexible multipurpose space. Under the soaring vaulted ceiling, students exercise and compete in their new gymnasium, on a regulation-sized basketball court, volleyball court, and climbing wall. When the gym is not in use, a new stage and art room-turned-green room give scholars a facility to host theatrical, music, and dance performances. The north half of the building, separated by a rolling curtain, houses a cafeteria that will serve over 600 healthy breakfasts and lunches each day, prepared in the commercial kitchen.

After decades of disinvestment, this underutilized city block begins a bright new future as a beacon of education and an anchor for its surrounding community.

General Contractor: Bulley & Andrews
Structural Engineer: Enspect Engineering
MEP/FP Engineer: IBC Engineering
Civil Engineer: Terra Engineering
Landscape Architect: Kettelkamp & Kettelkamp Landscape Architecture
Acoustical Consultant: Shiner Acoustics
Photography: Kendall McCaugherty, Hall + Merrick Photographers