Pilsen's pride

Monday 31 Oct 2011

Colour transforms building and neighbourhood while quashing negative stereotypes

The Instituto Career Academy High School (IHSCA) is located in Chicago, Illinois in a predominantly Latino community called 'Pilsen'. The project represents the first charter school that will be run by the organisation, The Instituto Progreso del Latino (IPL).

In the spring of 2010 the Instituto Progreso del Latino held a design competition for their new high school. JGMA's winning design represents the complete transformation of a 1920s-era heavy timber and brick building. The three-storey structure had been sitting virtually unused for many years and the construction type was not allowed for many current building types (particularly schools) within the City of Chicago.

JGMA's approach was to dramatically change the exterior and interior of the facility and transform it into a state-of-the art learning academy. Existing exterior brick walls will be clad in a new, high performance iridescent skin, dramatically improving the thermal performance and the 'health' of the facility by reducing water penetration and mould build-up in the wall cavity.

Of equal importance was the idea of changing the perception of the community and students that they were just going into another 'used' building. The new iridescent skin captivates everyone that approaches the building as its colour changes right in front of their eyes and leaves no doubt that they are entering something new.

Once inside, the dark interiors have also been completely transformed into a sea of colour. Each of the floors has a wonderful play of colour on the walls and floors that eliminate any reference to being a 'used' building and provides the students with a colourful platform for future success.

The Instituto Progreso del Latino's mission is to contribute to the fullest development of Latino immigrants and their families through education, training and employment that fosters full participation in the changing United States society, while preserving cultural identity and dignity. JGMA's design for IHSCA reinforces Instituto's mission and breathes life into a community desperately needing investment in the intellectual capital of its youth.

The design gives hope to the families, parents and students of the Pilsen community and specifically uses colour as a means of completely transforming the building, the neighbourhood, and most importantly, transforming the negative stereotypes of this region of Chicago.

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