Intrinsic School

Chicago, Illinois / United States of America

By converting a former lumberyard into a visually accessible school, Intrinsic School provides a model for the adaptive reuse of unorthodox structures into functional learning environments.

Seventy-five percent of the existing lumberyard buildings, some over 100 years old, were preserved and left exposed in the new school. Purposefully blending new and old is a metaphor for Intrinsic’s educational mission, where technology is used strategically by classroom teachers to personalize education for each student.

Large open “pods”, arranged in tandem for each grade level, provide distinct areas for different types of learning that students rotate through each day. A “coastline” of desks provides space for personalized online learning, “exchange tables” host peer-to-peer learning, and “pop up classes” provide areas where teachers work with up to 12 students at a time around a smartboard.

New exterior walls on the south and west sides wrap the entry and circulation spaces, and plentiful windows are integrated into the pattern of the paneled facade. Inside, a “ship in a bottle” approach was used to create a two-story steel-framed building inside the existing building. This solution is visible from the main lobby where the new overlaps the old.

Architect of Record

Wheeler Kearns Architects


Intrinsic Schools

General Contractor

Clune Construction Co.


  • Wolff Landscape Architects
  • Enspect Engineering
  • McGuire Engineers, Inc.