Recent census figures show a rapidly growing population in Chicago’s South Loop. The burgeoning neighborhood will soon boast an architecturally ambitious new building for Williams Jones College Preparatory High School, one that replaces the existing concrete building on South State Street. Designed by Ralph Johnson of Perkins + Will, the project features a bold red, gray, and white modulated façade, breaking up the massing of the eight-story building.
In addition to classrooms and science labs, the 1200-student facility will include a college resource center, a large gym with a weight room, a six-lane pool, visual and performing arts studios, underground staff parking, and a professional quality auditorium with a scene shop, dressing and green rooms. The current Jones building accommodates approximately 850 students.
To get the job Perkins + Will responded to an RFQ, beating 27 other firms who submitted. “The submittals were evaluated by a team of Chicago Public Schools and Public Building Commission (PBC) staff in accordance with the established criteria, which included previous experience in providing architect of record services on school construction projects of similar complexity, size, location, budget and type, participation of women and minority owned businesses, quality control plans and quality of proposed staff,” wrote Mimi Simon, a public information officer for the PBC, in an email. “Based on the evaluation process, Perkins + Will demonstrated the highest level of qualifications for our criteria.”
On December 14, 2010 the design was shown at a community meeting to gather feedback. According to the PBC’s Simon, “We have not yet received any substantive comments on the building design.” The architects were not free to speak, citing PBC rules.
Like all new public buildings in Chicago, the new Jones Preparatory will meet at least LEED Silver standards and will include stormwater management systems, automatic and low-flow plumbing fixtures, lighting sensors and daylight harvesting, native and adaptive landscape species, and a green and reflective roof to mitigate the urban heat island effect.
The next step for the project is a hearing at the Zoning Board of Appeals scheduled for February 18. Completion is planned for fall 2013.