Carole Robertson Center for Learning

Location: Chicago, Illinois
Program: Childcare and Family Resource Center
Status: Complete, 2002
Photography: © Hedrich Blessing, Steve Hall
Selected Recognition: 2003 Distinguished Building Award, American Institute of Architects Chicago. 2002 Interior Architecture Award, American Institute of Architects Chicago. 2002 Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Award for Architectural Excellence in Community Design. 2002 Merit Award, Chicago Building Congress. 2001 Silver Medal, Illinois Indiana Masonry Council.

The Carole Robertson Center for Learning was developed by a faith based community organization on a commercial strip along Ogden Avenue in the North Lawndale neighborhood. The 23,000 square foot facility responds to the need for cost effective “sustainable” materials. The Center is viewed as a key element in the continued redevelopment of the area.

The open site provided the opportunity to design a one story center which reflects the scale of the neighborhood and the children it serves. The classrooms are organized around a central courtyard which provides a protected play area for infants. The classrooms fronting Ridgeway and Lawndale Avenues are “stepped” to respond to both the geometry of the site and the scale of the residences in the neighborhood. The gross motor play area is housed in a glass pavilion that provides views through the entire center and the community beyond. The patterned floor tiles, modeled after the Raffia cloths of Zaire, form floor mats at the entrances to the center, classrooms and the gross motor room. The North and South facades present a woven masonry pattern resembling Kente cloth. Formerly the garb of only royalty, Kente is worn today by many who regard it as a symbol of African pride and dignity.