UChicago Child Development Center - Stony Island

Chicago, Illinois / United States of America

A Natural Place to Begin Life Long Learning:

  • Inspired by an adjacent historic landscape, the building integrates the natural environment with its architecture and child-centered curriculum.
  • Instead of creating a place dominated by synthetic play equipment and primary colors, the design allows children to be immersed in the natural world to discover first principles first-hand.
  • Emphasizing natural landscape over built-one, two playcourts with a footprint larger than the building itself were provided.

Strategic Infill:

  • The building, with a z-shaped footprint, responds to the narrow infill site, optimizing limited sun exposure and leveraging direct connections between the interior and exterior.
  • The siting of the eastern wing, situated within the shadow of the adjacent 19-story residential tower, preserves as much sun for its playcourt as possible. Conversely, the wing west of the tower is located so that its playcourt can enjoy a generous exposure to the southern sun.
  • The folding roof ripples over both wings, allowing natural light into the classrooms below.

Valuing Nature:

  • Rather than competing with the size or glamour of the adjacent University buildings, the focus of the LEED Gold certified center remains on the child’s perspective and outdoor play.
  • Different surfaces invite children to crawl, roll, ride, climb and walk—to learn about their five senses while interacting with nature. Plants were selected along the visual, auditory, and olfactory tenets.
  • Each playcourt includes a working garden where children learn about growing, harvesting, nutrition, and sustainability.

Discrete Security:

  • Instead of appearing as an impenetrable fortress, natural textures and scale ensures security in the background and wondering and learning in the foreground.

Turing Site Liabilities into Benefits:

  • Over 60% of the previously impervious site was converted to landscape or green roof.
  • Of the new paving on the site over 80% is pervious, allowing for immediate recharging of the aquifer through the ancient beach below. 


Architect of Record

Wheeler Kearns Architects

Associate Architect

Wheeler Kearns Architects

Contractor

University of Chicago

General Contractor

Leopardo Companies

Consultants

  • MIG
  • Primera Engineering
  • Thornton-Tomasetti Group