LVDA Makes the Most of a Simple Material for Chicago's Wolcott School

Wolcott School Arts and Athletics Building by LVDA. Photography by Barbara Karant + Associates.

A private Chicago high school for students with learning differences is proof that working under constraints can inspire creativity. When Lothan Van Hook DeStefano Architecture was tasked with building a 16,000-square-foot arts and athletics building for the Wolcott School, the firm was restricted by the tight one-acre site and a low budget. The result is a study in making the most of a simple material.

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Wolcott School Arts and Athletics Building by LVDA. Photography by Barbara Karant + Associates.

“The project acknowledges where the neighborhood has been—and where it’s going”

The facility is constructed almost entirely of precast concrete that’s been either polished, stained, or sealed with an anti-graffiti coating. “With no decorating budget, we chose to highlight its various colors and textures,” LVDA principal Avram Lothan says. The material nods to the industrial past of the West Town neighborhood, but refined details signal a forward-looking approach. Witness the lobby. There’s more concrete, this time hard-troweled and sealed, but it’s lit by a series of linear LED fixtures. Hang­ing at varying angles, they look like a Dan Flavin installation.

Wolcott School Arts and Athletics Building by LVDA. Photography by Barbara Karant + Associates.

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