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Chicago’s premier French school is running out the lease on its building in the Buena Park neighborhood, and plans to move into a new location on the site of the old Ravenswood Hospital before the 2015–2016 school year. The new facilities will be built in phases, as fundraising allows, but first up in a master plan by local architecture firm STL will be 86,000 square feet of classrooms and the typical educational amenities such as a gym and library. Soon to follow will be an auditorium—something architect Luis Collado said is lacking in the current building. “The only place the school comes together in one place is in the auditorium,” he said. “You never feel that you are in one school. Our design completely changes that.”
The new building’s 12 stories stratify the K-12 school by grade level, using bright color coding in walls, furniture, and detailing to identify shared and public spaces. Architect Jose Luis de la Fuente said a large atrium unites the floors, acting as the “heart” of the building, “the social infrastructure that kind of allows everyone to connect to each other.”
Color coding informs the double-skin facade as well. The bright red portals that ring the facade’s variously sized square windows are the most obvious element of an abstracted color scheme that recalls the colors of the French flag. White detailing on the perforated screen and flashes of blue on the metallic inner envelope complete the subtle pattern.
While a fence encloses the school’s three-quarter sized soccer field and outdoor areas, Collado said community engagement was a key goal for the Lycée. STL made the gym and auditorium accessible separately from the academic spaces, allowing it to stay open for neighborhood events after hours. He said the school is also exploring ways to manage public access to the playground and soccer field.
The amount of space tucked behind the 12-story volume on Wilson Avenue will bea surprisingly large, its designers said. That helps Lycée open up, even on a dense urban site. “They want to create citizens of the world,” said Collado. “The idea of really having a campus is something they haven’t had before.”
Two years ago Chris Osore, a designer in Des Moines with Chicago-based DLR Group, was reminiscing with a fellow Iowa State University graduate about his alma mater. In May he was pitching a master plan for a school halfway across the world to Uhuru Kenyatta, the president of Kenya.
The alumna Osore chatted up was Olive Mugenda, the first female vice chancellor of Kenya’s Kenyatta University. She was in Des Moines for the annual presentation of the World Food Prize when Osore introduced himself. Their common ground goes beyond their alma mater—Osore’s parents moved to the U.S. from Kenya in the 1960s. That leant a personal touch to the work Osore soon found himself immersed in; Mugenda explained that Kenyatta University was struggling to deal with an exponential increase in students and needed a design firm to help guide a rapid expansion.
“A huge need is education,” said Osore. “It’s a stepping stone for them to improve their standards of living.” Brain drain is still a challenge for the East African nation, but as Kenya’s middle class booms it is looking to stem the flow of young professionals out of the country.
Kenyatta University has grown from some 8,000 students in the late 1990s to more than 40,000 students across five campuses today. Its student body is expected to approach 70,000 in the next 10 to 15 years. So even though its campus network comprises a sprawling 1,000 acres, university leadership is already talking about growing vertically.
The main Kenyatta University Campus, located 15 miles northeast of downtown Nairobi in Kahawa, used to be the British government’s Templar Military Barracks until colonial rule ended in 1965. “A military base is for moving vehicular traffic,” said Osore. “A campus on the other hand is the exact opposite—it’s focused on the student and the pedestrian experience. We had to allow the pedestrian to take over the campus again.” That included introducing the first bike-share program on a Kenyan campus and arranging for a campus loop shuttle system for long distances. But the bulk of the master planning was focused on pedestrian traffic. DLR Group designers consolidated academic programs formerly scattered across campus into nodes arranged around a central campus green, linking pathways with a series of clustered courtyards.
Their work also involved creating a home for new programs, like the 96,000-square-foot School of Architecture Building on Kenyatta’s Ruiru Campus, located five miles north of the main campus. The form of the $13 million building references Kenya’s topography. Rising in a jagged sweep across several volumes, the structure recalls the hills of East Africa’s Great Rift Valley. A black mesh plate folds over the courtyard separating the building’s tallest volume from its lower counterparts, sheltering a central outdoor area from the hot Nairobi sun and inviting passersby into the “valley” to intermingle. Construction should begin by the end of this year.
The project’s initial phase also includes a 30,000-seat stadium. Kenyatta vice chancellor Olive Mugenda is still looking for $53 million to pay for the massive arena and recreation center, although she has said she would like to see a soccer match there before her term is up in two years. In addition to soccer and rugby, DLR Group’s Jeff Fenimore said the facility is designed for maximum flexibility, so the space will not go unused between large games. Public events, classes, and meetings could all use the recreation center and stadium spaces, he said.
For Osore, who has visited Kenya on vacation with his parents, the project’s value goes beyond hitting architectural marks. “I am proud to work for a firm that believes we can elevate the human experience through design,” he said.
Clayco celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, but the massive design-build firm is looking forward, not back. Last year it moved its headquarters from St. Louis to its offices in Chicago’s Jewelers Building, 35 East Wacker Drive.
That is where AN caught up with the firm, which had just opened the second exhibition in its Art & Science series—an ongoing art show in the firm’s downtown office. Amid a collection of photography from the University of Chicago campus, urban design practice principal Chip Crawford said that while the scope of Clayco’s work is expansive, it aims to tread lightly.
“Where’s nature at the design table?” asked Crawford, who joined the firm in 2012 after 28 years developing HOK’s planning group and whose research interests include biomimicry and ecosystem services. He said incorporating nature as a design partner means more than just practicing landscape architecture. “We’re developers, we’re builders, and we’re designers,” he said. “It’s really a radical partnership. We’re all working elbow to elbow.”
Forum Studio has been the firm’s design arm since 1999, while Concrete Strategies handles construction. Clayco bills itself as a full-service real estate, architecture, engineering, and construction firm. Such design-build practices are more common abroad, but have not caught on the same way in the U.S. The arrangement benefits clients because they have a better idea what a project will entail and cost from the start.
Clayco is active worldwide, but is also heavily invested in its own backyard. The firm’s master plan for Pune, India, includes a seasonal lake for stormwater harvesting. At home, they are remaking public spaces from East St. Louis to Richmond, Virginia.
Christian Activity Center
East St. Louis, IL
In the heart of impoverished East St. Louis, a 22-acre park is meant to help stave off urban decay. No mere open space, the Christian Activity Center has space for community gardens, a farmer’s market, and a band shelter to host performances by local artists and musicians. “They’re trying to rebuild community through recreation,” Crawford said. “It’s way richer than just some soccer fields. You could change the way people feel about open space, create a sense of ownership.”
Around the corner from Kanawha, Forum is working on site design for a multi-tenant office tower at the crossroads of two major highways that will serve as a portal to downtown. Home to law firm McGuire Woods’ corporate headquarters, the tower opens onto landscaped areas that function both as private retreats and stormwater retention areas. With artists Carol Mickett and Robert Stackhouse, the firm drew on the nearby James River to develop a visual vocabulary for the site around the concept of “flow.”
Zirve University Hospital
This multi-phase master plan calls for a regional education hub near the Syrian border in Eastern Turkey. Public spaces link the campus buildings, which will include a hotel, gym, dormitories, a hospital with almost 500 beds, a conference and education center, and a 300,000-square-foot medical research facility.
Parking podiums constrict public space in downtown Richmond, where an underutilized three-acre park known as Kanawha Plaza can feel like an afterthought to the nearby highway. The winning bid for the James River Green Building Council’s 2013 Green Spaces Design Competition, Forum’s plan calls for 175,000 square feet of mixed-use development on site to help fund a rehab of the public space. Cantilevered over the park, the bulk of the building connects Kanawha to the urban fabric and serves as a projection screen for an interactive LED display.
In the town of Mejillones, situated along northern Chile’s Pacific Coast, nearby copper mines are spurring unprecedented growth in the city’s Angamos port. But the rapid development threatens the area’s cultural heritage, and threatens to overshadow its touristic potential as a coastal destination in the Atacama Desert. By erecting a programmed berm full of pocket parks between the city’s downtown and its industrial zone, Forum’s design hopes to visually separate Mejillone’s two faces. The landform could even harvest greywater for irrigation in the arid city.
Earlier this year, Zane Burke, the CEO of healthcare information technology giant Cerner, announced his company’s big bet on Kansas City. Cerner, he said, would build a new complex dubbed the Three Trails Campus made up of 11 office buildings over 4.1 million square feet. The $4.3 billion project is located on 237 acres at I-435 and Bannister Road on the site of the long stalled Bannister Mall redevelopment site. Cerner has been at the forefront of the medical record digitization movement.
At full build-out in 2024, the campus plan, designed by Kansas City–based firm Gould Evans Architecture, will be the site of 15,000 new jobs and include a 75,000-square-foot daycare center, two data centers, a service center, and 370,000 square feet of retail. The Kansas City Council approved $1.63 billion in tax incentives for the project. Flanked by Missouri Governor Jay Nixon and Kansas City Mayor Sly James at a January 17 press conference, Zane said, “The project will serve as the hub of innovation to improve the healthcare and wellness of the communities we serve.”
The final assembly of the land needed for the project, estimated at $44 million, occurred in December 2013. The first of 14 phases has already begun at the site with final demolition now completed and grading to commence this Spring. The first phase of the project will include 578,000 square feet of office space in two new buildings and the service center. The first phase will create 2,260 new jobs. “To say this project is a big deal is an understatement,” said Missouri Governor Jay Nixon. “This project is transformative and a defining moment for this region and the state.”
The old Bannister Mall site has a storied past of starts and stops and has been a community eyesore for nearly a decade until it finally closed in 2007. Once the proposed site of Major League Soccer Champions Sporting Kansas City (then the Kansas City Wizards), whose owners include Cerner executives, the project is a homecoming of sorts. Just south of the project is Cerner’s 235,000-square-foot Innovation Campus. “This project has already made a significant impact in our community, and it signals the rejuvenation of retail services in South Kansas City,” said 6th District Kansas City Councilman John Sharp, who represents the area and lives near the site.
Hickman Mills School District has already received $6 million to upgrade science and technology learning, and the neighborhoods adjacent to the site have received $2 million for various neighborhood beautification and cleanup projects as part of the development agreement.
The project is one of several large projects announced in South Kansas City in the last few months. Another large property owner just west of I-435 from the Cerner project has announced a new health sciences and research office park, entitled Oxford on the Blue, and the federal government announced plans this winter for the full cleanup and remediation of the soon-to-close Bannister Federal Complex.
“This is the beginning of a great turnaround story in South Kansas City,” said Sharp.
While Gould Evans designed the master plan, no architect has yet been selected for the first phase of construction, which is expected to be completed in 2016.