Perkins+Will Awarded Prestigious MIES VAN DER ROHE AWARD for Innovation


The 2013 opening of the William Jones College Preparatory High School in downtown Chicago, designed by Perkins+Will, signaled a new era for students and new possibilities for urban school design. Jones College Prep masters the complexity of design in a tight urban space (100' x 400') in Chicago’s South Loop, with a seven-story building filled with light and open spaces for learning and congregating. Together with the renovation of the existing school next door, the new building nearly doubles the capacity of this high-performing public school. The design team provided full architectural and planning services for the project, which is currently pursuing LEED Gold certification. The Public Building Commission developed the project on behalf of Chicago Public Schools.

As the national Honor Awards jury noted, "There is a nice connection between the school and the city. It was obviously carefully conceived and articulated, inside and out, to take maximum advantage of a very tight site." In response to this space challenge, Perkins + Will vertically dispersed a 278,000 gross square foot program over eight occupied floors, rather than a typically horizontal configuration. Classroom spaces are located at the center of the school, on Levels 4 and 5, to provide optimum proximity to the shared curriculum spaces above and below.

The building’s design features numerous terraces that break down the mass and help distinguish the major program elements.  The majority of the eastern facade is composed of a random pattern of alternating window and colored insulated metal panel modules spanning between expressed floor slabs. North, South and Western facades, which are less visible, are intended to be simpler. Vertical and horizontal ribbon windows punctuate the simple massing, which is clad in insulated precast concrete panels, relating to the solidity of the masonry facades of the neighboring historic Dearborn Station and Printers Row area. This aspect of the design creates continuity with the surrounding buildings and reinforces a sense of neighborhood identity.

The Award presentation will take place on the afternoon of Saturday, October 3 in the Theater Auditorium, which is fitting considering the strong history of Performing Arts in the school. Colleagues from the Harvard School of Design conference, taking place in Chicago, will be in attendance following a tour. If you'd like to attend the ceremony, please contact Mary Young, AIA Illinois Program Director.