Erie Elementary Charter School

Chicago, Illinois / United States of America

Precast concrete panels stacked like blocks lend a playful character to this elementary school addition in Chicago. Responding to the owner’s modest budget, the project’s colored panels turn the school into a learning tool, its tectonic expression of stacked elements explains the way loads are carried to the ground in a way that can be understood by young school children. The ground and polished finish ennobles the concrete panels and transforms an otherwise commonplace building component into a playful but dignified façade. A gymnasium and recreation room on the third level are stacked over library, classroom and computer lab spaces, which serve the community on the first two floors. Making full use of its space-limited urban site, a rooftop playground enables students to view down into the street below; in this way the children become the school’s identity. Materials in this LEED Silver-building are chosen for their cost, durability and sustainability, with a high percentage of locally-manufactured, extracted and processed materials (precast concrete, concrete slab and blocks) constituting the major building elements, and finishes containing recycled content. School drop off preferences fuel-efficient vehicles and the school’s “green” roof minimizes the building’s contribution to the urban heat island effect.

Architect of Record

John Ronan Architects


Erie Elementary Charter School

General Contractor

Norcon, Inc.


  • Goodfriend Magruder Structure LLC
  • dbHMS
  • Terra Engineering, Ltd.