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Hansberry College Prep

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Changing the academic trajectory of every student who enters.

Located in a neighborhood with the highest drop-out rates in Chicago, Hansberry College Prep was developed through a creative partnership between the Noble Network of Charter Schools and another nonprofit.

With grounds measuring a full city block, a deteriorating parochial school gymnasium building became the cornerstone of a new 1,100 student high school. A single-story addition, punctuated by three street-facing courtyards, quadruples the size of the former school building, redeveloping a site formerly pockmarked by broken pavement and abandoned foundations.

In an area previously characterized by decay, the school’s transparency to the street and the lushly planted courtyards boldly invite the neighborhood to take part in the regeneration and growth. No learning space or corridor is exempt from supporting Noble’s mission to change the academic trajectory of every student who enters.

Instead of towering over the surrounding bungalows, the school’s unorthodox low profile dissolves into the neighborhood. The trees planted in the courtyards, each of a different native species, hover below the mature tree canopies that arch over Aberdeen Street. Worktops, built into the window walls along the courtyards, provide sunlit breakout areas for students and faculty.

A 370-foot long hallway which straddles the courtyards, serves as a “college corridor”, where 435 college logos, geographically organized from end to end, emblazon hallway lockers surrounding a central alumni map. The map, which depicts the US and an enlargement of the Midwest, is surrounded by digital displays which scroll the stories of current faculty and alumni. Hansberry students can read the abbreviated biographies of faculty or former students who may have faced hurdles similar to their own and succeeded to attend colleges identified on the map.

In contrast to typical district high schools, where similarly-sized classrooms repeat along double-loaded corridors, a broad array of learning environments are arranged around rustic courtyards that bring natural light and seasonal color indoors. Design features throughout the building reinforce the school’s goal of preparing students from under-resourced communities to graduate from top colleges and universities.

General Contractor: Bulley & Andrews
Structural Engineer: Thornton Tomasetti
Landscape Architect: Wolff Landscape
MEP Engineer: IBC Engineering
Photography: Steve Hall / Hedrich Blessing