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Erie Elementary Charter School  


Chicago, IL, United States

The Erie Elementary Charter School (EECS) was built on the foundation of the Erie Neighborhood House (ENH). This core concept of serving and educating Chicago’s low income immigrant population continues on at the EECS where the teachings extend beyond the classroom. Involving the community through unique life experiences, language, culture and sport grow the curriculum outside of the typical school environment. 


The EECS campus includes the main school building, a former convent/office building, parking lot and adjacent play lot north of the main school. After a thorough assessment of the existing buildings, associated site and proposed building program we found the main school building to be structurally sound and able to handle another occupied floor on the roof. Considering an adequately sized gym would not fit on the footprint of the existing convent, the most  appropriate and dramatic location for this would be on the current roof of the school. 

By removing the convent, relocating the gymnasium/auditorium to an elevated position, left the ground plane open. This creates a more welcoming entrance for the community, intimate playground for the students and allows more green space for the school. The U-shape of the existing school extends the newly formed plaza. The new addition, and relocated building entry is located on the southeast portion of the site, which allows for a safe and secure entry sequence. This addition extends up, creating three new levels of classrom space, music room, art room and parent resourse room . Once it reaches the new forth level, it extends west, over the newly formed plaza below inviting students, parents, teachers and the entire community to enter and experience the school. This space is programmed with the auditorium, creating an interesting layering of gathering space ‘floating’ above and community plaza below. The new level extends back to the existing building where the gymnasium is placed to capture the unobstructedviews of downtown Chicago. 

With the core concept of EECS’s community involvement reaching beyond the classroom; a new way to bring a natural social interaction between student, teacher and community is implemented. With the current parking lot being underutilized, and located on a corner across from the school, we found it to be a natural place to introduce a community park/soccer field. This would bring the community and school functions together into one harmonious space. Stadium seating, facing the school, is introduced to provide spectator area for soccer games, graduation events, outdoor movie theater, etc. while providing shading for the parking spaces below. Additional parking, and handicap accessible spaces are located where the existing play lot is. 

In conclusion, the expansion of the school is not only an opportunity for the students, faculty and parents to experience a stimulating learning environment but also invites the community to become involved with the organization. It also never lets one forget where they are established by continually framing views of the Chicago skyline. This campus truly embraces the community while offering the opportunity to people of all ages and cultures to play active roles and develop the community in which they live. 

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