Hale Elementary Annex

Chicago, Illinois / United States of America

Limited choices sometimes produce the best results.  The design starting point was a set, oft-used school addition prototype which dictated long, low-ceilinged, nearly windowless corridors.  The interior opportunities were constrained effectively to the color palette for finishes and the vinyl composition floor tile patterning.  Borrowing from Kahn, we were forced to ask, “VCT, what do you want?”  The $0.79 psf VCT, borrowing from Twisted Sister, responded, “I wanna rock.” 

The bold colors and layouts emphatically celebrate the energy of the elementary school’s students, teachers, and administration.  While contemporary in spirit, the floor design is a direct derivation of the existing structure.  The bold red checkered flooring of the existing corridors is inverted at the link between new and old.  This pattern evolves into a crisp banding detail that evokes the projecting brick detail on the existing building’s exterior.  The bands serve as a way-finding measure, marking key room entries and circulation nodes.  The concept is blown up to a mega-scale in the cafeteria.  

Everyone’s elementary school should be nostalgic, so by taking a prototype with limited flexibility and adding distinct character by pushing the limits of what was possible, the humble VCT instills a powerful memory in children’s mind. 

Architect of Record

ESA / Searl Lamaster Howe J.V.


Chicago Public Schools / Public Building Commission

General Contractor

Walsh Construction