GEMS World Academy-Chicago, Lower School

Chicago, Illinois / United States of America

GEMS World Academy, an international private school, established their first school in the United States in Chicago’s downtown Lakeshore East community. GEMS takes pride in being one of the most advanced learning environments in the world. The use of state-of-the art technology enables students to collaborate with classrooms around the world, providing students with a global perspective on education.

The Lower School houses 650 students in a limited site footprint, resulting in a 10 story solution to achieve the 82,000 square feet goal. The design responds to the unique urban site constraints and focuses on providing a variety of spatial experiences while maintaining a consistency of detailing, strategic use of color, and striking views. With limited access to natural light at the base, the necessity of single-loaded corridors set the planning direction for the entire building to maximize daylight.

Flexibility, optimized floor area and connectivity also drove the design. Casework is placed toward the perimeters, and moveable furniture and equipment allow spaces to be utilized multi-functionally. Touch screen displays are provided throughout the facility to foster collaboration. A multipurpose room with operable dividers can accommodate athletic and large gatherings. A rooftop play area provides an outdoor space with expansive views. 

Architect of Record

bKL Architecture LLC

Associate Architect



GEMS Americas

General Contractor

Power Construction Company


  • Halvorson and Partners
  • WMA Consulting Engineers, Ltd.
  • Shen Milsom & Wilke, LLC