Category: Grow

There are two kinds of vital statistics at Gary Comer College Prep. First, the building’s: 45,000 square feet; $11.7 million. Second, the school’s: 650 students in grades 9–12; 96 percent black; 4 percent Hispanic; 80 percent of graduates are the first in their families to go to college.

The LEED Silver school—named for the late founder of Lands’ End—is part of Chicago’s Noble Network of Charter Schools, which aims to enroll more than 10,000 low-income students across 16 campuses.

Local firm John Ronan Architects designed the school as a follow-up to its 2006 Gary Comer Youth Center next door. The two buildings share a gymnasium, cafeteria, music rooms, art rooms, and computer labs; the school has its own classrooms, lecture hall, and green roof. The projects are both clad in corrugated stainless steel siding and aluminum composite panels, but each has its own distinct color palettes.

These materials are partially motivated by the project’s South Side location. “One of the reasons why there’s perforated metal that extends all the way across the street façade is literally because they were worried about bullets,” juror Joe Valerio said. But the design is also a call to openness and transparency. A large glazed lobby welcomes students and, as Valerio notes, “all the classrooms have glass walls between the corridors and the classrooms … so that these children see other children learning.” And it’s working: this year, 98 percent of graduates went to college.

Project Credits

Gary Comer College Prep, Chicago
Owner Comer Science and Education Foundation—Guy Comer (president)
School Operator Noble Network of Charter Schools—James Troupis (principal, Gary Comer College Prep)
Architect John Ronan Architects, Chicago—John Ronan (principal); Josh Bergman (project architect); Evan Menk (senior technical coordinator); Marcin Szef, Anna Ninoyu, Lane Van Buren, Ed Blumer, Sam Zeller (project team)
General Contractor Norcon—Jeff Jozwiak (principal); Robin Rieck (senior project manager); Dan Westermann (project manager)
Structural Engineer Goodfriend Magruder Structure—Kurt Goodfriend, Bob Magruder (principals)
M/E/P Engineer WMA Consulting Engineers—Deirdre McDaniel (vice president); John Marcheschi (managing engineer)
Civil Engineer Terra Engineering—Karen Steingraber (president); Danielle Kowalewski (project manager); Danny Park (project engineer)
Landscape Architect Hoerr Schaudt Landscape Architects—Peter Schaudt (partner); John Ridenour
Acoustical Consultant Kirkegaard Associates—Anthony Shou (associate); Shimby McCreery (acoustician)
Security Schirmer Engineering Corp.—Louis Caravelli (senior security consultant); Sean Ahrens (project manager); Jordan Ferrantelli (consultant)
Size 45,000 square feet
Cost $260 per square foot (building); $40 per square foot (site development)
Photograph Steve Hall/Hedrich Blessing