By Nicole VandeBoom | Staff Writer
November 15, 2017
After beginning the construction of its upper school in July, GEMS World Academy Chicago’s plans have changed. The building height has been reduced from 206 feet to 144 feet, eliminating the proposed pool and balcony area. Removing the pool helped decrease the need for additional levels.
“It’s a reflection of studies about our use and relationships we have with current facilities,” said Interim Head of the School, Andrew Sherman. “It was sort of thinking through, ‘what do we need to have to produce a program of excellence and what kind of things do we want to make sure the space is designed for?'”
An updated rendering of the exterior of GEMS World Academy Chicago’s Upper School. Photo courtesy of bKL Architecture.
Sherman acknowledges some disappointment in the GEMS community about the loss of the pool, but assures that swimming will not be removed from GEMS’ health and wellness programs. Students will continue to use the pool at Lakeshore Sport and Fitness Center, 211 N. Stetson Ave.
Construction changes have not altered the timeline. The upper school building is scheduled for completion by winter break 2018. Throughout November, 56 caissons will be installed and subterranean drilling will be completed. The building is being constructed in such a way that adding new floors is possible should GEMS need to expand in the future.
Features and amenities retained include the 500-seat auditorium, dance studio, black box theater and a bi-level information center and library. Green spaces like the rooftop garden have been preserved, while art and science labs remain a big feature of the building.“Ultimately, [the changes are] more of a reengineering of spaces than a loss of any space,” Sherman said.
Students and faculty can expect to find some of the most successful concepts in Chicago woven throughout the operations and functionality of the GEMS Upper School. Inspiration for interior design features came from The Field Museum, Chicago Shakespeare Theater and The Art Institute as well as other Chicago locations. Construction can be viewed live via webcam on GEMS World Academy-Chicago’s YouTube channel.