Earl Shapiro Hall

Chicago, Illinois / United States of America

The design for Earl Shapiro Hall began with exhaustive research focused on early childhood development and the impact of the environment on learning. ESH’s design is an expression of this study and the values of the U of C’s Laboratory Schools. While building appears relatively straightforward, composed of two parts—an entry wing and a classroom wing—it is composed of a carefully planned inventory of spaces designed to serve the Lab Schools’ cutting edge pedagogy. Team teaching, the importance of natural light, creative play – both indoors and outdoors—focus on the student instead of the curriculum, learning by doing, and the creation of un-programmed labs where students can learn from each other all connect the research and the design. The nursery through second grade classrooms are arranged in pairs that connect through shared meeting rooms to allow for communication and collaboration. Between the banks of classrooms are two learning labs with courtyards that bring natural light into the center of the building. The floating library cantilevers over the building’s main entrance, serving as a symbol of learning and defining the very public entry to the street. The south face is self-shading on all three levels, angled away from the sun. Tucked under this form is the main gathering space where students connect with their teachers in the morning and re-connect with their families at the end of school day.

Architect of Record

FGM Architects

Associate Architect

Valerio Dewalt Train


University of Chicago Laboratory Schools

General Contractor

Lend Lease


  • Rubinos + Mesia Engineers
  • ARUP
  • Primera