Chicago has a progressive tradition of school design, most notably the Crow Island Elementary School (1940), the human-scaled postwar masterpiece by Eliel Saarinen and Perkins+Will. But how can one give eloquent expression to the charter school’s distinctive mission – creating a disciplined but intimate learning environment – while remaining budget conscious on a 1-acre urban site?
BarnettBates Corporation supplied Orsogril Sterope architectural grid material places the final touch on a deceptively sophisticated design. The corrugated-steel clad building enhances the sense of motion, evoking the city’s streamlined elevated trains, even as it responds to the industrial context. Despite its aggressive, sculptural form-making, the design is deeply urban, shaping the public realm of the street and enlivening it with peeks of the soaring, light-filled spaces inside. The building’s small scale helps ensure that kids don’t get lost in the shuffle. The Perspectives Charter School is at once economical, yet stirring, hard-edged but humanistic – the latest chapter in Chicago’s ongoing story of innovative school design.