HPZS designed a 26,000sf adaptive reuse of a vacant big box retail store into a best-in-class 12-classroom, Universal Pre-Kindergarten school, a pioneering model for Chicago Public Schools. In addition to daylit classrooms with flexible furnishings, the interior features a skylit, multi-purpose, gross-motor playscape complete with tricycle track, local artist-designed mesh curtain "rooms", and interactive custom millwork.
The interior breaks down the formerly stark, blank box, into playful smaller "houses" mimicking a children's streetscape. The colored volumes play with solid and void, hard and soft, creating padded nooks and hidden storage compartments along the corridors while providing wayfinding and classroom identity. This "Village in a Box" vernacular promotes community within the school, by creating a child-centric scaled experience integrated into their curriculum.
The once flat, uninspired box is transformed with a naturally-landscaped entrance plaza and tactile playlot, high-performance envelope upgrades with whimsical exterior cladding, designed to welcome students, families, teachers, and staff to their first step on their educational journey.