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Cristo Rey St. Martin
College Prep

Waukegan, IL, United States

Cristo Rey St. Martin College Prep (CRSM) wanted a new campus as progressive as its students. As their former facility didn’t meet the basic needs of its students, CRSM has looked towards their neighbor, an abandoned department store, to become their new home.

Looking past the stigma of a big box retail store, the tall volume, open floor plan, and northern wetlands become immense opportunities in the transformation of the perceived eye-sore into a beacon for CRSM. In order to make the deep floor plan suitable for a learning facility, daylight must be integrated. Slicing the building with sawtooth light monitors and skylights extends the limited building perimeter, assuring all learning spaces have access to daylight.

The façade showcases the school’s identity along the major thoroughfare of Belvidere road proudly, as its tones reflect a gradient of CRSM’s school colors. The building aims to deteriorate the existing sea of concrete and give the community a glimpse at what the site is hiding to its north: a serene natural wetland. Rather than tucking the athletic fields in the rear of the school, the new facility showcases them. ​

On the building interior, the finish strategy mimics the facade design, clearly illustrating the school’s identity through color. A gradient of the school’s colors washes the floors and walls, creating not only a vibrant and energized interior, but also a wayfinding tool for students as they traverse the space. In addition, the generous ceilings became a means to create different types of learning environments in these high-volume spaces. The school’s desire to have an open and transparent pedagogy resulted in a full height wall of glazing in each classroom to permit further penetration of daylight and views.

CRSM prides itself on its innovative approach to education, where in addition to their regular coursework, each student works for a corporation that sponsors their education. The expectation of CRSM students is already elevated to that of a college student; therefore, they deserve a facility that emulates this. The facility strives to match CRSM’s innovative pedagogy, giving students the high-quality campus they deserve.


  • Chicago Building Congress Merit Award 2022

  • ENR Regional Best Project Award 2021

  • Landmark Illinois Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Preservation Award 2021

  • Architecture Masterprize 2020

  • ALA Merit Award, Institutional Architecture

  • Chicago Building Congress Renovation + Adaptive Reuse Merit Award

  • Urban Land Institute Vision Award For Innovative + Replicable Re-use

  • “The 12 Coolest Offices in Chicago 2019” Crain's Chicago Business

  • American School + University Building Design + Construction Business Insider Curbed

  • Chicago NPR Illinois

  • The Atlantic’s: Citylab Best Places to Work Award

  • Crain's Chicago Business

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