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Intrinsic School

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A new type of learning space.

Not many educators would look at a shuttered lumber yard on Chicago’s Northwest Side and declare it the perfect place for a new school. But Intrinsic School’s leaders weren’t looking for a traditional school, instead they were inventing a new type of learning space. The large column-free spaces located in the high-need neighborhood provided the perfect starting point.

Seventy-five percent of the existing buildings, some over 100 years old, were preserved and left exposed within the new envelope. The combination of new and old reflects Intrinsic’s educational tactics, where adaptive online learning is blended with traditional teaching in small groups to personalize education.

There are no 30-student classrooms, hallway lockers, or double-loaded corridors. Instead, up to 180 students and 8 teachers rotate within interconnected pods dedicated to each grade level. The right-hand pod focuses on the Humanities, while the left-hand pod concentrates on STEM. Each pod is comprised of a large open area adjacent to a traditional acoustically-isolated classroom.
Students are immersed in a much larger social network than their counterparts in traditional schools. These larger networks promote encounters between students of different abilities and backgrounds, enriching their experience.

The open area of each pod is designed for rotating between different modes of learning. A “coastline” of individual desks, furnished in both standing and sitting heights, provides a place for personalized online learning, where students learn at their own pace. “Exchange Tables”, situated under an oversized light shade, host peer-to-peer learning. Two “pop- up class” areas provide teachers a place where they can remediate a common misunderstanding or reinforce a newly learned concept with up to 12 students. Instead of diminishing the teacher’s role with technology, Intrinsic enables them to more effectively use their time and talent.

General Contractor: Clune Construction Co.
MEP Engineer: McGuire Engineers, Inc.
Structural Engineer: Enspect Engineering
Civil Engineer: Terra Engineering
Landscape Architect: Wolff Landscape Architects
Acoustical Consultant: Threshold Acoustics
Photographer: Steve Hall (with Hedrich Blessing)
Videographer: Josh Deunsing – 80JD