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University of Chicago Laboratory Schools


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS University of Chicago Laboratory Schools The Capital Expansion Steering Committee: David Greene David Magill Steve Wiesenthal Boyd Black Alicia Murasaki Mary Anton David Stafford Leann Paul Andy Neal

Vice President for Strategic Initiatives Director, University of Chicago Laboratory Schools Associate Vice-President for Facilities Services, University Architect Assistant Vice-President of Capital Project Delivery, Facilities Services Director of Pre-Construction Services Space Management Director, Facilities Services Associate Director, University of Chicago Laboratory Schools Project Consultant, University of Chicago Laboratory Schools Board Facilities Committee Chair, Parent, Alumnus

School Administration: Director: David Magill Associate Director: David Stafford

Architecture and Project Management: Valerio Dewalt Train Associates (Design architect) Joe Valerio Randy Mattheis Bob Webber Elisa Dennis Mike Voss FGM Architects (Architect of record) Joe Chronister Terry Owens Jim Woods Peggy Hoffmann Joe Pullara ARUP (M/P/FP consultants) Nancy Hamilton Chris Taylor Ross Watson

Environment Design International (Civil engineers) Craig Chambers HJKessler Associates (LEED consultant) Helen J. Kessler Hugh Lighting Design (Architectural lighting consultant) Peter Hugh McGuire Igleski & Associates (Historic preservation) Anne McGuire Peggy Veregin Mikyoung Kim Design (Landscape architects) Mikyoung Kim William Madden Matt Gillen

Construction Cost Systems (Cost estimator) Randy Jardine

Primera (Electrical engineers, IT consultants) David Tufte Lindsay Bose

Carol Naughton + Associates (Environmental graphics consultant) Carol Naughton Vick Moore

Rolf Jensen & Associates (Code consultants) Robert D. Barnes Nicholas E. Ozog

Rubinos & Mesia Engineers (Structural engineers) Mohsen Farahany Henry Jelen Debra Hoegemeyer S2O Consultants (Food service consultants) Kristin Sedej-Schmidt SAKO & Associates (Security consultants) William Sako Adolfo Benages Schuler Shook (Theater planners) Robert Shook Joshua Grossman Threshold (Acoustic/ AV consultants) Dawn Schuette Laurie Kamper

Preparation of this report provided by: Valerio Dewalt Train Associates and FGM Architects


OUTLOOK University of Chicago Laboratory Schools 29 June 2009

Forecaster Interviews, April 2009


Lab+ is a long range project to rebuild the Laboratory Schools’ historic campus at the University of Chicago. An intensive research phase was completed in the first half of 2009 to gather the information to form a solid foundation for the architectural design work to follow. The “Future of Education: Outlook” is a short summary of the research process and findings. A full account of research completed is contained in Volume 1 through 6 of the “Future of Education: Research.”






Diversity expressed, a vision for Lab+, the new Laboratory Schools Campus The Laboratory Schools are diverse by every measure and by design – from the background of the students to every aspect of the educational experience. It finds expression in its global village of students; comfortable with ambiguity, accepting of differences, who define themselves by their individual differences while fully cognizant of their similarities. The students are a celebration of human variability. Lab is a place with core values; it is authentic, it is an attitude, an emotion, an enabling experience where boundaries are porous, where agility and independence are valued, and where collaboration and

FGM Architects

healthy competition naturally coexist.

Learning at Lab still resonates with the revolutionary work of John Dewey. It is based on citizenship and community, and starts students on a personal

Valerio Dewalt Train

evolution from content consumers to content creators. In this tradition, learning only begins in the classroom, builds on students’ passions, and extends in every direction where solutions are the goal and methodology expects creativity.

Community among students and between students and teachers is a basic value that supports individual growth and skillful collaboration. Students communicate in an ever evolving variety of formats and styles seeking authentic connections.

Sir Ken Robinson, internationally recognized leader in the development of creativity, said at the 2006 TED conference, “Creativity in education today is as important as literacy.” Similarly, creativity in architecture today is as important as shelter. In making a place for the Laboratory Schools, both the past and the future are embraced, transparency breaks down boundaries, and space is made for collaboration, community, and invention. Most of all it is a place that is memorable, where memory comes to symbolize a set of core values.




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GOALS: The development of the design for Lab+, rebuilding the Laboratory Schools Campus at the University of Chicago, has as a sole goal- the pursuit of excellence. Achieving this goal should have a rigorous basis: beginning with research, followed by a design phase that looks at all logical alternatives and concluding with a thorough testing and vetting of the selected solution. RESEARCH PHASE: Immersion: The research began with the design team immersing themselves in the Lab+ environment. The team spent days attending classes, shadowing students, and participating in the life of the Schools. This brief exercise was a crash course in the culture of the institution. Forecasting Changes in Education: Most school construction is based solely on the issue of capacity – we need more space, build it as quickly as possible. In a rigorous pursuit of the best answer, the research phase was based on an extensive literature search and interviews with key educators and scientists. Lab+ will rebuild the campus for students ten years from now and thirty years from now. By forecasting future developments in education, the process not only responds to present needs but attempts to anticipate the future. Best Practices: The Laboratory Schools’ buildings were built from the 1890’s to the 1990’s. Since the last major construction project there have been hundreds of schools built in the U.S. and throughout the world. A key part of the research was to identify and analyze innovative new school construction. Through a series of visits, the team was able to learn valuable lessons from a number of leading institutions around the country.

FGM Architects


Programming: The heart of the research phase is a rigorous DEVELOP and detailed programming exercise. This study is based on SCHEMATIC DESIGN VDTA and FGM extensive interviews with faculty and staff at Lab at every level, in DEFINE THE STUDENT EXPERIENCE every department, and in every VDTA operational unit. No one knows $ the need more than the people on the ground. The report defines in detail the quantitative and qualitative requirements of the campus. The key criticism of this process is that it is too much about the present and not enough about the future. But, the process of forecasting and best practices ensures the programming process will be informed and innovative.


Brainstorming: The Laboratory Schools’ culture is based on a highly diverse population of dedicated teachers, staff, students, parents, and the large number of stakeholders committed to Lab+. This is not a weakness but rather, an advantage. Enlisting this broad group, a select group was convened to define a vision for the new Lab campus in a day-long brainstorming session.

Valerio Dewalt Train





Space utilization and organization studies FGM












DESIGN PHASE: Armed with the results of a rigorous Research Phase, the Design Phase will construct a series of design alternatives for the ultimate shape of the re-built Laboratory Schools campus. Each alternative will be priced based on a set of scope documents. The intent is to use a method of comparison to arrive at a decision to pursue a single direction as the process continues. DEVELOPMENT PHASE – COMPLETING THE SCHEMATIC DESIGN PHASE: Once a design direction is determined, the approach will be developed in detail through fully developed phasing, rescheduling and project budgeting. Computer visualization and technical analysis will be used to simulate the design for review and evaluation by all the stakeholders. The intent is to fully represent the impacts, opportunities and costs of rebuilding the Laboratory Schools campus.



IMMERSIONS By immersing themselves in the culture of the Laboratory Schools, the design team wanted to discover the underlying core values of the institution. The team worked alongside teachers and staff as they interacted with parents, students and other stakeholders. They discovered the unique DNA of the Laboratory Schools culture. These experiences were part of a foundation for the research and programming to come. One team member rode the early morning Laboratory Schools bus with students from the north side, while others participated in Nursery, Kindergarten, Lower School, Middle School, and High School classes. Team members also helped prepare food in the cafeteria; attended art, band and drama classes; observed student drop-off and pick-up and went to a high school varsity basketball game.

OTHER EXPERIENCES: Nursery Class Counselors Afternoon Pickup Kindergarten Meeting (HS) Hour Before Program Fourth Grade Faculty Meeting (LS) Student Clubs High School Historic Elements Girls Basketball game Black Box Theater Libraries Admissions Fine Arts Nurse Computer Science University Connections

Friday Dismissal Woodlawn Nursery Development Morning Drop-off Faculty First Grade Faculty Meeting (MS) Hour After Program Middle School Food Service Boys Basketball Practice Middle School Theater Memories Administration Music Lobby Sing Communication Morning Bus Ride Technology

Ms. Marty Billingsley speaks to Joe Valerio about the high school computer lab.

Reading with Ms. Carrie Collin’s Nursery class

KEY OBSERVATIONS: Special events have special places: Holiday sing along in the front vestibule, Rites of May festival in the courtyard, Potluck dinners in classrooms and adjacent corridors (pre-K through 4th grade), Halloween parade. Connectivity is an important part of Lab+: Students meet in hallways, in the cafeteria, in the library. Connections among a community of students is an important part of teachers’ curriculum. Participation: In Kindergarten, each student has a job; in music class, each one has a solo.  In the 8th grade,


each person in the class is expected to participate in a book discussion, and students look to make sure that each has an opportunity. Individual Learning: Teachers at the Laboratory Schools have independent ideas about teaching. Each student learns to discover new ideas as if it’s the first time anyone learned it.  Self-generated interests are encouraged. Acceptance of All: No cut-policy for athletics.  Extra curricular student clubs are open to all.  If a club doesn’t fit a student’s needs, they are encouraged to start their own club or organization. Opportunistic: Taking advantage of the intellectual community that “surrounds” the school. Musical Emissaries: The High School Jazz Band is an especially tight group, performing for the Chicago community outside of the school. Ms. Christina Hayward’s kindergarten class

Parent Participation: The Laboratory Schools’ philosophy encourages and achieves active parent participation in all phases of their children’s day-to-day education. Signature Architecture: The High School journalism students could not identify an architectural ‘face plate’ to photograph and use for the cover of the school newspaper. State of the Art Technology: Most students have personal devices such as laptops and iPhones and actively use them as educational learning aids. Some teachers prefer to keep technology in check and favor face-to-face interaction. There is a concern that a “state-of-the-art” facility could be bereft of the charm that the Laboratory Schools’ current “shabby chic” environment offers.

Mr. Dom Piane’s Jazz class

Growth and Space: The Laboratory Schools’ sense of community has been negatively affected by the growth of the school; it is feared that this will be exacerbated by the proposed increase in enrollment. Finding a Classroom: The Hour-After Program is a logistical struggle due to the high volume of children participating and the decentralized use of space. Using classroom space is not ideal for may teachers who utilize this time for lesson preparation. Parents: Parents support the teachers, have high expectations for their children (which leads to better behavior), and are involved (in a good way) in the educational process. They are widely admired by the faculty and staff. However, participating parents sometimes overwhelm the capacity of the buildings.



Laboratory Schools occupy two city blocks on The University of Chicago campus, in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago. Despite its ivy-covered limestone walls, is part of an increasingly globalized world where everything is connected to everything else. Where do the Laboratory Schools fit in the larger cultural context? Graceann Bennett, the Director of Strategic Planning for Ogilvy & Mather in Chicago compiled recent cultural trend research. She observed successful organizations in our culture will do two things: first, they will answer unmet needs; second, they will be agile; their values will align with the major currents in the broader culture.

“The Yankelovich Inc., Think Tank, compiled a list of defining characteristics of each generation in 2008. When looking at Gen Y, they found that this generation navigates their world in “shades of grey” and their greatest social norm is “multicultural.”

Valerio Dewalt Train

FGM Architects

URGENT NEEDS: Authenticity: Lasting values, disregarding the immediate and the transitory. Compete AND Collaborate: Competing is easy, collaboration more rare, but success in the future will require agility; competing one day, teaming to collaborate the next. Comfort with Ambiguity: One set of data, but many different conclusions. Major Currents aligning with the Lab Schools: A Cause vs. an Institution: An institution is valued only if it has core values. Redefining Community: Diverse by every measure, though deeply shared values. People want to find a home with like-minded individuals, no matter how diverse racially, religiously, or economically. Enabling Experiences: Tapping into people’s passions; individuality, collaborating with people with like interests. Agility: Give it a chance, if it doesn’t work, “Tomorrow is another day.” Globalization and the Individual Student: Individuals in this global world are increasingly defining themselves by what makes them different versus what makes them similar. In the online world, where cultures merge and geographical/racial/gender divides no longer exist, individuals are going out of their way to stand apart by defining themselves using every last detail of their being. (What band/quote/interest/ picture/niche group best captures my individuality and sets me apart from the rest of the friends in my network?)


Kindergarten art at The Laboratory Schools


The intensive programming effort was informed by the outlook of the present Laboratory Schools’ faculty, and by the deep experience of the programming team in the design of educational facilities. But this begs the question: in anticipating the future have we cast a wide enough net? In response, an Ad Hoc Faculty Committee was formed to look for sources beyond the walls of the School that could contribute to re-shaping the campus. The Committee searched for relevant forecasts of cultural trends, scientific advances, and innovative concepts in the literature and the thinking of key scientists and educators. Forecasting Future Change: Through a series of articles and a series of formal and informal interviews conducted by the Faculty Committee, a view of the future change began to emerge.

Future of Education Committee: Leann Paul Curt Lieneck David Magill Lisa Miller David Stafford Colin Rennert-May Andy Neal Mike Silverman Carla Young Katy Sinclair Beverly Biggs Kelly Storm Amani Reed Lisa Sukenic Matthew Horvat Mark Wagner Sarah Abella Jan Yourist Catie Bell Joe Valerio Sandy Bixby Randy Mattheis David Derbes Elisa Dennis Jim Woods Dan Dyra Baker Franke Charlotte Jacobs Eli Johnson Amy Landry Lab + Steering Committee Lab Schools Board Members

Steering Committee IT Director Steering Committee, Director MS Teacher Steering, Assoc. Director HS Teacher Board Member/Alum/Parent LS Teacher N/K Principal MS/HS Teacher LS Principal MS Teacher MS Principal LS Teacher HS Principal MS Teacher NS Teacher MS Teacher HS Teacher Valerio Dewalt Train MS Teacher Valerio Dewalt Train HS Teacher Valerio Dewalt Train FGM LS/MS/HS Teacher/Dept Chair HS Teacher MS Teacher LS Teacher LS Teacher


Although specific outcomes are difficult to predict, successful institutions in our culture will do two things: first, they will answer unmet needs, and second, they will be agile, their values will align

Graceann Bennett

with the key positive values of the overall culture.

Director of Strategic Planning Ogilvy & Mather in Chicago

Perhaps unobserved, this has been true and always will be true. Looking at the broader culture, what is valued above all else? The answer is creativity, and “Creativity in education today is as important as literacy.” Can creativity be taught? “Picasso said all children are

Sir Ken Robinson Author of “Do Schools Kill Creativity”

born artists, the problem is to remain an artist as you grow up. Kids will take a chance, if they don’t FGM Architects

know they’ll have a go. They are not frightened of being wrong. Being wrong is not the same thing as being creative. But we do know that if you are not

Malcolm Gladwell

prepared to be wrong you will never come up with

Valerio Dewalt Train

Author of “The Tipping Point”

anything original. By the time kids get to be adults they are afraid to be wrong. We stigmatize mistakes. This is how we run our companies and our education systems. We are educating people out of their creative capacity”. Dennis Littky, Ph.D.

This present has no future. Instead, we need to

Co founder of Big Picture Learning

look to new paradigms. “Science for centuries has searched for universals. Now we are looking for an understanding of variability. Genetics has opened the door to the study of human variability.” Roy Pea, Ph.D.

Human variability means that each student is going

Center for Innovations in Learning Director, Stanford University

to learn in their own distinct way. “Key to learning is to find a student’s passion; then connect it to the world outside.” “Children are interested in creating videos, music, blogs and other content. It makes a critical difference when students create work for a real audience.” “Learning should start with concrete experiences and build those towards abstract

Elliot Washor, Ed.D.

ideas. Schools should connect with the surrounding

Co founder of Big Picture Learning

community, letting the inside out and the outside in.” 9

The traditional classroom with its age segregated students was part of a 19th Century search for universals. “Break down the walls between classrooms, mix students from different age groups and collaborate. Experiment with any technology Stephen Heppel

the student finds liberating. Schools need agility to

Co author of “Building Learning Features”

embrace different learning styles.” To accommodate human variability, the classroom should be flexible and school should incorporate an inventory of interstitial spaces that adapt to different students’ needs. One of the key interstitial spaces is the library. “The

Chad J. Kainz Learning Technology Specialist University of Chicago

library is defined less as a collection, and more as a point of access where the teacher, the librarian, and the student collaborate to gain access to a world where data is the starting point for almost everything” (Aaron Cohen, 04-08-2009). But, “If everything is digitized why do you need a physical

Ian T. Foster

space for a ‘library.’ A library can contextualize

Director of the Computation Institute, University of Chicago

the virtual and real, bringing those things together to do things someone cannot do on their laptop. Technology facilitates innovation by not only enabling the individual, but by also enabling group work and collaboration.” Technology will continue to evolve, but in ways that are surprising. “We tend to overestimate the short term impact of technological change and Arthur B. Shostak, Ph.D.

underestimate its long term impact.” Students

Author of “High Schools for Futurism”

arrive on the Lab+ campus with a virtual digital assistant in their laptops, iPhones, and traditional cellphones. These technologies provide alerts, memory, scanning, photography, and other services. At the same time, “the relationship between the

Gary Stager, Ph.D.

student and the teacher cannot be overemphasized;

Learning Environments Expert

technology often separates children from an authentic connection with the teacher; many students arrive at high school never having had a real conversation with an adult.”

But the Laboratory Schools’ students should be

The Cranbrook Schools (K-12), Museum and

prepared for these changes. The University of

Academy of Art (Graduate Studies), were founded in

Chicago’s Computational Institute illustrates how the

1922 and 1932 respectively as a counterpoint to the

digital revolution has impacted all disciplines, not

success of industrialization in Detroit specifically,

just the sciences. Bench research trains the mind

and the automotive industry at large. “Cranbrook’s

to interpret data, but now quantitative analysis of the

two core values are first, growing out of the 19th

data from a single experiment can become the basis

Century Arts and Crafts Movement, where a quality

for innovative research over time and across many

environment is essential to a positive learning

disciplines. Students should be prepared for a future

experience, and second, teachers are artists who

where computation and digital analysis is key to

work in their studio along with their students.”

creative discovery.

Schools should contain real “laboratories,” where real people are studying real problems with their

No matter how much things change, the past has


a future. Children learn based on interactions with Emilia teaching techniques elevate the importance

Reed Kroloff, AIA

of the environment, encouraging socialization and

Director of Cranbrook Academy of Art

FGM Architects

people and interactions with the environment. Reggio

learning; the classroom is the “third teacher.”

Institute Chicago noted that having labs, studios,

Valerio Dewalt Train

Wellington Reiter, President of the School of the Art T. Conrad Gilliam, Ph.D.

and classrooms with the flexibility to accommodate

Department of Human Genetics University of Chicago

different modes of learning is becoming the norm in secondary and even university education. Learning in the John Dewey philosophy of experiential learning, using physical models and creating with one’s own hands, is really powerful and works.

Karen Haigh

Modern education was founded in the 19th Century

Early Education expert Columbia College Chicago

as a mechanism to support the industrial state. It valued math, the sciences, and linguistics over all other disciplines as valuable. Relegated to a second tier were the humanities and the arts, disciplines that valued creativity. In these disciplines, a teaching methodology has evolved which might offer lessons

Wellington Reiter, FAIA President School of the Art Institute of Chicago

for all disciplines in a school setting that encourages creativity. Howard Gardner, Ph. D. Author of “How Education Changes”


BEST PRACTICES The Committee identified school campuses across the U.S. that offered lessons, both successful and unsuccessful, for the design. These school facilities range in age from less than one year to sixty years in age and are geographically spread from coast to coast. The intent was to learn lessons, both positive and negative, from recent school construction across the country. The Laboratory Schools have a reputation for success, regularly matriculating students who rank among the best in the country, being accepted by some of the most selective institutions of higher education. However, looking at the Laboratory Schools facilities, despite their self-evident beauty as historic buildings, they have never been at the cutting edge of school design. This of course raises the question, does design matter? On one level, we can see that great teachers can overcome the deficiencies of any school environment. But on another level, it does matter – it can make good teachers better. Sidwell Friends School, Washington, DC Courtyard and black water filtration educational kiosk

The Ad Hoc Faulty Committee surveyed recent school projects from across the country and thought-leading schools from around the world. A selection of East, West, and Midwest schools in the U.S. were chosen by the committee to be visited. At first they found much that simply reinforced traditional notions of school design, but as the interview continued they also found a range of promising experiments. The Classroom: The Future of the Past On the micro scale, the traditional classroom remains the center of the educational experience. Certainly we have added technology: computers, digital projectors, and smart boards; but fundamentally, a classroom is still a classroom. Notably, Reed Kroloff of the Cranbrook Academy of Art pointed to the smart board as an important technology, the device brings access to new media and teaching potential because it keeps a student’s eyes up and focused on the interaction between teacher and other students. However, the most important thing observed was what we did not see.

The Episcopal Academy, Newtwon Square, PA Chapel and All School assembly space

As more and more schools become “notebook schools” where every student has a notebook computer, we did not see any classrooms that solved the fundamental problem of what the computer brings to the classroom – teachers cannot make eye contact with the student and see the student’s computer screen at the same time. Professor Steven Heppell spoke about implementing mirrors into elementary schools in computer rooms

to allow both students’ faces and the screens can be viewed. Details like this make the technology effective. We also did not see classrooms set up for tabletop demonstrations. Cooking schools added mirrors years ago to allow students to see what was happening on the cutting board and cook top, which has progressed into overhead cameras and monitors. There is a technical leap that should be made to integrate video projectors or large plasma monitors, allowing the teacher to see what is on a student’s screen or, conversely, allowing a student to view what is on the table top or smart board in the classroom. We did see small innovations in the classroom. High Tech High in San Diego covers every surface in a classroom with whiteboards, even the storage cabinets that line one wall in every room – you can write everywhere. At the Nueva School outside San Francisco, careful consideration was taken to integrate the teachers’ workstation into the classroom. Here, teachers enjoyed desk space near natural light, which created environments for student-teacher interaction.

High Tech High, San Diego, CA Group collaboration space

Interstitial Spaces: the Future of the Future Across the country, schools have experimented with developing new types of spaces surrounding their classrooms or new relationships between classrooms. Certain themes emerged from these experiments. Transparency: There was a significant emphasis on allowing students to see what is happening in the classroom from the circulation spaces. Many schools believe this de-mystifies educational experience and draws students into new areas of study that interest them. Student distractions resulting from a transparent environment are a minor concern compared to the benefits. At High Tech High in San Diego all the classrooms have floor to ceiling glass walls, and in some cases classes are held in large open areas where curtains are used to define the space.

The Nueva School, Hillsborough, CA Innovations Laboratory

Breakout and Project Spaces: The school day has a rhythm built around the class schedule. However, moving from a class space to a remotely located room for a specialized function limits students’ ability to delve deeper into areas of study. Many schools were experimenting with non-programmed spaces of varying sizes. It was clear that these spaces needed to be alcoves off of circulation paths or fully enclosed rooms. These spaces need “owners.” We saw seating areas in corridors; these areas promote interaction between students, but only on a very limited short term basis. Innovations Lab at Nueva School: Many schools were developing lab spaces for project based learning.


The Dewey principle of learning by doing is once again the next big thing. One of the best examples of this type of facility was the Innovations Lab at the Nueva School. Roughly the size of three typical classrooms in their middle school, the room is outfitted with a variety of services and specialized equipment, including a computer controlled 2D laser cutter and sophisticated woodworking equipment. But the key to the program was the teacher who ran the lab- a Stanford grad who had been an executive in a Silicon Valley start-up. The Library: In a number of cases including the Episcopal Academy and Bala Cynwyd Middle School, both in Philadelphia, and the Urban School in San Francisco, the library shared three qualities. The collection was driven by both the curriculum and student interests, the environment made the room a special place, and there were breakout rooms where teams of students with teachers and librarians could work on projects. The Building as a Learning Tool: The new Middle School Building at Sidwell Friends in Washington D.C., a LEED Platinum Building, was considered an important part of the curriculum. This was done with a light hand so that as the building ages, and cutting edge technologies of today become the dead technologies of tomorrow, there is an incentive to update the building, but not an implicit demand for a costly renovation.

Bala Cynwyd Middle School, Bala Cynwyd, PA New library

Google Children’s Center at the Wetlands: Built on Reggio Emilia principles, the Google Children’s Center provided immediate access to outdoor play areas for the nursery and, via a stair from the second floor, for the older children. Restrooms with direct outdoor access were an important design element. The layout of the classrooms was close to the ideal with an individual teacher’s work area positioned to overlook two classrooms. The classrooms were all open to a wide long room where children could engage in messy play activities – there were no corridors to speak of. Team Teaching: Again, at High Tech High in San Diego, they have committed to team teaching. Each semester a humanities teacher and a sciences teacher are teamed in two side-by-side classrooms with a movable partition between their rooms. The offices of the two teachers are in a glass enclosed room where they can view their classrooms and vice versa.

The Google Chiildren’s Center at the Wetlands, Palo Alto, CA Outdoor play space

Lessons Learned: Considerable thinking has gone into new school design in recent years. Some of these approaches are appropriate for the Laboratory Schools while others are not. In addition, there is clearly room for innovative thinking to solve evident problems and build in the necessary flexibility for the campus to adapt to future change.

THE HISTORIC CAMPUS In 1896, the newly created Dewey School began operations at Kimbark Ave and 57th Street with 12 students, 2 teachers, and a manual training instructor. In the previous year, The University of Chicago had provided the financial backing to support John Dewey’s educational vision to create a teaching and learning laboratory for children. Enrollment in this new school continued to increase during these early years, and the school relocated on two occasions, first to 57th and Harper and then to 54th and Ellis. By 1903, Dewey’s Laboratory School had merged with Francis Parker’s University Elementary School and moved into the newly completed Blaine Hall, located at the current historic campus. Also at this time, two Chicago area manual training schools merged with Dewey’s high school to form University High. The final merger of all of these schools would create what is now known as the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools. The Laboratory Schools campus currently occupy 2 city blocks in the Hyde Park neighborhood, bound by 59th Street to the South, Kimbark Avenue to the West, 58th Street to the North, and Dorchester Avenue to the East. Kenwood Street bisects the campus; the historic campus, anchored by the original Blaine Hall, is located to the west and the physical education facilities and playing fields are located to the east. The historic campus now consists of five distinct buildings, interconnected to each other, creating two internal courtyards and a large green space to the north. These five buildings include: Blaine Hall (1903), Belfield Hall (1904), Judd Hall (1931), University High (1961), and The Middle School (1993). The Laboratory Schools’ historic buildings, including Blaine Hall, Belfield Hall, and Judd Hall, are each designed in the Gothic Revival style and include limestone façades, pointed arches, and sloped tile roofs. Blaine Hall originally housed the University of Chicago’s School of Education and the early Laboratory Schools. Today, Blaine Hall contains the Early Childhood and Lower School programs. Blaine Hall is heavily used by children and faculty and as the designated ‘front door’ of the Laboratory Schools campus, receives many visitors and parents daily. Belfield Hall was built originally as the University High School. Today, Belfield Hall contains spaces for the performing and visual arts, a small gym, classrooms, and offices. Judd Hall originally opened as the Graduate Building for the School of Education at the University of Chicago. In the early 2000’s, the Department of Education was phased out from the University of Chicago’s curriculum, and the Laboratory Schools have slowly acquired space

The Laboratory Schools, 2008

Blaine Lobby, early 1900’s

Blaine Lobby, 2008


in Judd Hall as it has become available. Currently, the University still occupies the third floor of Judd Hall while the Laboratory Schools use the rest of the building for administrative offices, classrooms, a small gym, and a lecture Hall.

The Laboratory Schools, Blaine Hall

Due to the advanced age of these historic buildings, the taxing regional climate, and varying levels of deferred maintenance, Blaine Hall, Belfield Hall, and Judd Hall are each in various states of disrepair. Planned restoration to the exterior enclosure system includes work to the stone facades and repair or replacement of the clay tile roofs. While each building is in decent structural condition, much of the HVAC and plumbing systems are past their useful life. Portions of the electrical systems have been recently replaced, while some components should be reconsidered, both for system integrity and overall capacity. None of the historic buildings meet current egress or accessibility codes and any work to the Lab campus will consider this carefully. Completed in 1961, the University High School deviated from the Laboratory Schools’ tradition of Gothic Revival architecture, expressed in modern form and material with an aluminum and glass curtain wall façade. Currently, this building includes the library, cafeteria, classrooms, labs, offices, and support space. The exterior enclosure systems include the single-pane curtain wall system and a membrane roof past its expected life. Much of the HVAC equipment and plumbing systems are also past their useful life. The electrical systems equipment has been recently replaced, but spare capacity is in short supply. Although constructed more recently than Blaine, Belfield, or Judd, some current egress and accessibility codes are not met.

The Laboratory Schools, Judd Hall

The completion of the Middle School in 1993 signaled a return to the Gothic Revival style of the earlier Laboratory Schools’ buildings. The Kenwood Mall entrance functions as both the main entrance to the Middle School and the High School. The design of the Middle School required removal of the High School’s east façade to create a wide connection between the two buildings. The exterior enclosure, including the facades and roofs are in decent repair as are the major HVAC, plumbing, and electrical systems. All are expected to be retained. The Laboratory Schools historic campus consists of buildings that are a wide mix of style, age, and repair. An analysis of these buildings and the programs that each contain will allow for a comprehensive rethinking of how these buildings could relate to each other and how they might relate to something new.

PROGRAM SUMMARY The pedagogy of the Laboratory Schools began with John Dewey and his thoughts on early childhood learning in 1896. It continued to evolve as a true educational laboratory, experimenting with new concepts and, in the process, training generations of teachers. In turn, schools around the world learned lessons from the Lab Schools, leading to a new round of innovations. Perhaps the most notable of these experiments are the approaches developed in Reggio Emilia for its early childhood center.

Reggio Emilia Schools, Italy Early Childhood Classroom

Looking forward and back at the same time, the building program for Lab+ is both a re-affirmation of past success and an agenda for new innovative thinking about learning at all levels. This vision evolves over time as students grow up on the Laboratory Schools campus. The Lab+ program developed in the first quarter of 2009 is intended to reflect the intellectual basis of the Laboratory Schools in a “new” campus reflecting the needs and desires of over 300 members of the faculty and staff. The programming effort is to meet all the needs, even if it is not practical to achieve all the desires. Early Childhood and 1st and 2nd Grade: The Early Childhood program is strongly influenced by Dewey’s teaching, the further refinements developed at the Reggio Emilia Schools, and project based learning. In these early years a child’s work is play. Through play each child is exposed to a set of core values; socialization, collaboration, physical activity, scientific curiosity, finding expression in the arts, and appreciation of the natural world. Children will be introduced to new exploratory opportunities available in our increasingly digital and computer based world. A library shared with the Lower School should be proximate to the classrooms and should encourage exploration and group activities. Special attention will be paid to maximizing teaching time by limiting travel distances between activities.

Reggio Emilia Schools, Italy MultiFunction Space

Outdoor play areas should be proximate to every classroom as part of an emphasis on creating an expansive world that is open to children’s exploration. Windows into classrooms and activity spaces allow children to observe what is happening in each classroom, and what is happening outside the classroom. The windows also allow for natural daylight to penetrate and for students to appreciate nature. Adults need space in the early childhood center. With teachers’ offices in the classroom, there should be


collaborative spaces for staff to meet, exchange ideas about student work and teaching strategies. A welcome center shared with the Lower School will create a place in the school for parents, defining an essential point of gracious and safe exchange between family and school. Lower School: The Lower School transitions students from working at play to working at learning. Yet there are important physical and philosophical overlaps. The Welcoming Center, the Library, and some play areas are shared between the schools. Philosophically, the classroom is still the center of the experience with education, socialization, lunch, and the teacher’s office in the room. Interaction that comes from students looking out and looking in and limiting time uses and distance traveled between classes remain important. The critical change is a student’s greatly expanded sense of the world and developing an education experience that makes far reaching connections. These foci are reflected in the need for the school to meet as a whole; community becomes critically important. They are also reflected in an increased need for focused learning spaces for both the sciences and the humanities. Each student is growing and becoming more in control of their individuality. Teaching and support systems are responding with activities and counseling that respond to both a student’s strengths and weaknesses. This is the first glimpse of the intent to connect each student to resources of the Laboratory Schools, the University, and the wider world. Middle/High School Welcome Center program diagram

Middle School and High School: Lab Schools’ students have now graduated to an environment where the emphasis is on creativity, problem solving, collaboration, interdisciplinary studies, and project-based learning. To an even greater extent, there is an emphasis on considering each student’s individual interests and needs. School is a workplace where real work is done, where students collaborate with their teachers and other students. Embedded throughout these schools should be the latest technology, coupled with the capability for exhibitions in digital or analog formats. The demands for increased computation will need to be answered with a robust infrastructure that should connect students to a wide range of digital software. Students should be able to communicate by whatever means, collaborating and growing new visions of the Laboratory Schools community, wherever they are in the building. Most importantly, students will move from being content consumers to content creators. The two schools will need a range of shared and dedicated facilities to support this educational program.

Meeting Rooms, Work Rooms, and Informal Gathering Places: The emphasis on collaboration and group work creates a demand for places where students can gather in small groups and work together. The huge demand for these spaces means that these spaces function flexibly for different disciplines.

All School Meeting Space: A dedicated or convertible room, shared by all, where any individual school can hold an all school meeting of students and faculty. Food Service: A new food service facility, including a new Lab Café, configured similar to the Booth School of Business is seen as important to building a sense of community; as a place that can be shared by students, faculty and parents; and will be seen as the cross-roads of student life where kids can hang out. Library: The librarian is both a coach and a research consultant. The library should be an extension of the commitment to individual learning, to collaboration and to project-based learning. It is a place where important things are stored. It is a point of access to the wider world. It is a workplace. It is not a boring place. Fine and Performing Arts: The Middle School and High School will share art studios, music rooms, rehearsal rooms, and performance spaces which will be professional, flexible, and fully equipped digitally. There will be advanced spaces for traditional media such as ceramics, and a studio for digital art. Similarly, there will be spaces for vocal and instrumental music, but also an electronic music studio and a black box theater.

FGM Architects Valerio Dewalt Train

Shared Facilities: Welcome Center: A casual environment where students, teachers, and parents can interface both formally and informally. This space should be adjacent to food service.

Dedicated Facilities: Dedicated facilities include classrooms for English, History, Humanities, Math, the Sciences, Journalism and World Languages. In all these disciplines the classrooms and support spaces need to encourage collaborative teaching and learning. Although different in practice the principle is the same. The humanities use dramatic presentations to explore history, while Language students act out plays in different languages. In the sciences, students work together at lab benches or gather around a computer monitor to view virtual experiments via the internet. New interdisciplinary approaches are changing our definitions of traditional sciences. Everyone emphasized the need for flexibility. Support Spaces: The learning environment needs to be complemented with a range of support spaces. Counseling is important now and, in the future, will become even more so. After school and summer programs have unmet needs. (The parents play an important role at Lab+ and their organization is in need of facility space.) Similarly the public health services of the nurse remain critically important. In addition, the Laboratory Schools’ administration including admissions, business, and development offices are critical to school operations and needs to be both colocated and expanded. Conclusion: The Lab+ Campus will reflect the Laboratory Schools’ core values: socialization, collaboration, physical activity, scientific curiosity, exploring the arts, and appreciation of the natural world. It will facilitate calibrating a student’s education to their interests and needs and will re-affirm the commitment to project-based learning.


Early Childhood Center/


Primary/Lower School Welcome Center Parents Association Physical Education








Faculty Center &


Proffesional Development Early Childhood Center/ Primary/Lower School Library MS/HS LIBRARY


Early Childhood Center/ Primary/Lower School Workroom Early Childhood Center/




Lower School Computer Lab


Early Childhood Center/ Primary/Lower School Health


ALL SCHOOLS DIAGRAM: Used as a tool for space planning, the All-Schools diagram represents space information collected through programming exercises and faculty input. Facilities and Security Administrative Offices Auxilary Programs

Valerio Dewalt Train

FGM Architects

Information Technology

Middle/High School Computer Lab

Middle/High School Health





200’ 21


The Research Phase assembled a vast array of data about every aspect of the Laboratory Schools’ future, from broad cultural currents to the most detailed analysis of the needs of individual departments. The key question is how to synthesize all these data into a basis for the design of the new Lab+ Campus. True to the intent of an inclusive process, the Laboratory Schools convened a group of key stakeholders to brainstorm the meaning of all this data. The stakeholders included the Steering Committee, Faculty, Staff, Administrators, Students, and Neighbors. The format for the session began with a thorough review and discussion of the research. After this session, the group divided into a series of teams that identified and focused on key issues including: the arts, library, community, interstitial learning, technology and interdisciplinary collaboration, and early childhood education. The Lab+ faculty community participates via a blog-based discussion.

Selecting visual descriptors at the vissioning workshop

The visioning session either identified or confirmed key elements of the future of the Lab Schools: Diversity Creativity Human Variability The continued relevance of John Dewey’s work Collaboration Connecting education to students’ passions and interests The authenticity of the experience is based on an institution that reflects a shared set of core values. The individual work teams dELVED deeper focusing on critical issues: The Arts: Art is the most tangible expression of creativity and should be accessible at all levels. Art is communication and teaches communication. It is one discipline that benefits from transparency – just watching it happen is educational in itself. The pedagogy of Arts Education embodies Dewey’s learning by “doing” and can be applied to all subjects. A key opportunity is to explore collaboration between the Arts and other areas of education like math, English, and science. Library: Books are the core culture of Lab. The library is a resource; it brings students in contact with the wider world, and with other students and faculty. It is not just about reading, it is about collaboration and community. The library should not be just about storage and quiet contemplation, but should also offer spaces for collaborative work. The Early Childhood Center and Lower School library experience is a time of discovery, while the Middle School and High School library experience is all about research and problem solving. Librarians have more of a teaching role than the traditional role implies.


Community/Interstitial Learning: The Laboratory Schools is a coalition of communities: the inside communities include the faculty, staff, and students, while the outside communities include the University of Chicago, parents, neighbors, alumni, visitors. The key to the success of this coalition is the engaged families because their participation equals higher student achievement. Taken as a whole, this coalition fosters collaboration. Making stronger communities requires space; places where collaborations can be nurtured and can grow, including formal and informal interior spaces and outdoor gathering spaces.

The Library breakout group discussion

Early childhood breakout group discussion

Technology/Interdisciplinary Collaboration: Technology is all encompassing and aids education. Any technology that liberates students’ experience of their world, should be used and adapted for learning. Technology transforms communicationin the School by helping students to convey ideas, communicate, and collaborate. It should not supplant face-to-face communication, but enhance it. Technology is an assistant teacher, not the teacher. Technology can accommodate different learning needs and abilities by supporting individual discovery. Flexibility is key. Technology should be kept consistent throughout the school. Provide a “playground� for emerging technology to be tested and used by students and teachers. This provides opportunities to experiment and explore new ways to teach and learn. Early Education: Authenticity of the institution is based on the core values of John Dewey and his thinking about early childhood education. Students have important conversations at all levels with adults. Teaching kids how to collaborate is important. Outdoor spaces are as important as insides spaces. The School needs all aspects of nature incorporated. Help children find out what they are passionate about; to be engaged in the world around them. Incorporate differential learning because the way our students learn is vast expressing human variability; the design should accommodate differences as well as similarities.

Kick-off workshop

25 Valerio Dewalt Train

FGM Architects


The Basis of Design reflects the Owner’s Project Requirements expressed through correspondence and in meetings during the Research Phase of the project. The Laboratory Schools are one of the preeminent private schools in the U.S., an institution that is committed to a pursuit of excellence. Lab+ will rebuild the Laboratory Schools’ historic campus and will raise the level of quality of the physical environment to reflect Labs national reputation. Most importantly it will support this pursuit of excellence by the Lab community through a design that is both creative and cost effective. The authenticity of the Laboratory Schools flows from its core values and the Lab campus should be the physical expression of these values. Through its historic buildings, the campus will connect the school to its innovative traditions while allowing for the exploration of creative opportunities in the future.

The Laboratory Schools’ Kenwood Play Ground, 2008

Nature and Urbanism: The Laboratory Schools are part of a larger world. On a regional or neighborhood level, the campus is part of a dense urban environment. In this environment, the campus should engage the City in all its diversity. The design should reflect an understanding of how buildings can impact the natural world. Landscape: Diverse stimulus from the natural environment is widely a recognized element in the pedagogy of the Laboratory Schools. A series of gardens will be developed providing a consistent fabric of vegetation and landscape elements that thread the courtyard and quadrangle spaces together, defining a structure for educational programming. The designs of each of the outdoor spaces will emphasize the seasons, plant growth and material change. It will also highlight natural phenomenon including precipitation and solar movement. With each day, these landscapes will evolve, revealing new meanings and new spaces for exploratory play. Architecture: When shelter is elevated to an art it becomes architecture. The design should express the vision and the values, diversity, collaboration, creativity, and innovation, of the Laboratory Schools. The historic buildings have stood the test of time and are as pleasing today as they were when they were built. At the same time, they are of their time, reflecting the values of the turn of the last century. Similarly, the architecture of the new additions should be of our time.

The Laboratory Schools, 2008


History: The Laboratory Schools was founded in 1896, and its current campus was built in a series of phases from the 1900’s to the 1990’s. The architecture of these buildings ranges from fabulous to mundane. The Lab+ design should celebrate excellence, through a careful and thoughtful preservation of the best of the past, while updating these buildings to meet modern operating needs. At the same time, the more ordinary examples of architectural design should be either upgraded or replaced. Specifically, the workshop wing of Belfield Hall is more than a hundred years old, but does not significantly contribute to the historic campus. The High School building is more than fifty years old and is no longer innovative, but instead is out of place. Its operating systems and glass curtain wall are seriously deficient and not sustainable.

The Laboratory Schools, Judd Hall

Reconciling the Past and the Future: The significant historical buildings have in common a palette of materials, including limestone walls, a highly articulated window pattern, and tile roofs among other design elements. They have a traditional scale where the massing of the structures is broken down into smaller components. Large uninterrupted elevations are avoided. Modern additions, such as the High School, are often a shock to the more refined proportions of historic architecture. In developing the design for the new additions, a palette of materials will be used which will visually form a link back to the historic building, but without historicist elements. In addition, the scale of the components of the new additions will also reflect the scale of the historic structures. In this way, buildings built in different centuries can each reflect their times while working together in harmony to achieve a dynamic whole. Program Optimization: The Program Verification Phase brought forward a full expression of the needs for the new campus based on the requirements defined by a broad group of faculty and staff. At the same time, the Future of Education Research identified future changes that may be needed to reflect innovative new ideas in education. The design should have two objectives: first, to realize the program, but second, to optimize the program, achieving savings in space utilization through innovative design creating opportunities to add program areas in anticipation of future needs.

Sustainability: The word “sustainability� has many meanings. As a measurement system, it can be expressed as a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification by the U.S. Green Building Council. The design will strive toward a minimum of LEED Certification for the existing buildings and LEED Silver for new construction. Higher levels of certification may be achieved, but must be within the budget targets. On a broader level, the Laboratory Schools’ commitment to sustainability goes beyond LEED. This includes a commitment to citizenship in a global community. This means pursuing approaches that are socially responsible, contributing to a healthy and efficient campus environment that includes improving air and water quality, protecting scarce resources, and an understanding of the how a building relates to its broader context. Building Operating Systems: The building systems should create a healthy educational environment and are a major contributor to LEED certification . They should be sustainable, energy efficient, and easily maintained. Achieving these goals will reflect the collaboration between Owner, Architect, and the Engineers. The building envelope will be reviewed to improve its performance. For new construction, solar orientation and exposure will be optimized. Indoor air quality will be a major focus of the design. Appropriate comfort criteria will be used to design the systems that will reflect the latest standards and codes.

The Laboratory Schools, Afternoon Dismissal, 2008

Special Requirements: The design of the Lab+ Campus includes a number of special uses and special systems that will be focused on by the core design team and a number of consultants. Special uses include the performance and assembly spaces, dining hall including food service, laboratories, and the library. The data network, technology integration, building automation, and security systems are important parts of the Lab+ campus. In each case, the design will optimize these systems achieving the highest level of performance within cost constraints. Safety, Security, and Compliance: The design will conform to the wide range of safety, security, and code compliance requirements. These issues are both ordinary and critical to the overall success of the project. Budget and Schedule: The project is expected to be completed in phases by 2015 for a construction cost of $137.6M.



AN EXECUTIVE SUMMARY The Laboratory Schools of the University of Chicago is one of the pre-eminent private schools in the nation. The objective of Lab+, the rebuilding of the historic Laboratory Schools campus, is to develop a physical environment fully capable of supporting this highly successful educational program. For teachers, staff, parents, alumni, and the whole University of Chicago community the pursuit of excellence at Lab should be seen in the students’ achievements and symbolized in the design of the campus.

To meet this goal, the process is founded on an exhaustive research phase. The work began with a two week long immersion - members of the design team “lived” at Lab to understand its culture, and ended with a brainstorming workshop to define a vision for Lab+. In between, there was a search to discover the key questions that should shape the campus.

The first phase in this search looked beyond the walls of the Lab Schools to find “wise people” who could broaden the thinking about Lab+. A series of hour long interviews were conducted with a group of scientists and educators to forecast changes that could impact, either positively or negatively, education and the design of the campus.

Not surprisingly, the work of John Dewey and his project-based approach to education was sited as a still revolutionary idea. This approach aligns with the importance of encouraging creativity. The most important relationship in education is still between the teacher and the student. The importance of human variability needs to be reflected in an approach to education that understands every student is different and key to success is building on students’ interests.

The second phase of the search canvassed new school construction throughout the country to identify a set of “best practices” of the most innovative new approaches to school design. Three separate trips were scheduled to visit the best practice schools to learn what worked and what did not. It was clear from these “best practices” that the traditional classroom is still vital to the education process. But the future classroom will be easily reconfigurable to accommodate a number of different relationships 31

between teacher and student. Major innovations were not in the classroom, but instead in the interstitial spaces outside the classroom where a diverse approach to education could find expression.

The third phase in the search was to develop a quantitative and qualitative program for the rebuilt campus. The program was based on dozens of interviews with faculty, staff, and some included students. The program reflects lessons learned from the first two phases. It reflects the traditions of the Laboratory Schools and the heritage of John Dewey. It maintains the importance of the traditional classroom. But it has a strong focus on interstitial learning spaces which both our effort at forecasting the future of education and our best practices identified as critical.

All this research was reported at the Visioning Workshop. The participants included the University of Chicago Steering Committee, faculty, staff, students, and the design team. The outcome included general themes of diversity, the importance of creativity, the continued relevance of John Dewey’s work, encouraging collaboration, citizenship, and community. In addition, the workshop identified critical details that add texture to the larger themes.

Key to the vision for the Laboratory Schools and Lab+ is the authenticity of the experience. This is based on the Lab community, a diverse group that has a shared set of core values. Looking at trends in the broader culture, people today believe in ideas more than institutions. Lab is defined by its core values, making it both an idea and an institution.

The Research Phase final phase is developing the Basis of Design, the agenda that will be used to move into the next phase in the methodology. This work reflects a wide range of concepts, prescriptions, and goals that will be reflected in the design of the campus. But more than anything else the Basis of Design will reflect the core values of Lab.

Now that we know what the questions are, we are ready to move forward to define the answers.

Valerio Dewalt Train Associates, Inc. 500 North Dearborn, 9th Floor Chicago, Illinois 60654 FGM Architects 1211 West 22nd Street, Suite 705 Oak Brook, Illinois 60523

2009 University of Chicago Laboratory Schools

Future of Education: Laboratory Schools  

LAB+ is a long-range project to rebuild the Laboratory Schools’ historic campus at the University of Chicago. An intensive phase was complet...

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