Cesar Chavez Multicultural Academic Center

Location: Chicago, Illinois
Program: K-5 Primary School
Status: Complete, 1993
Photography: © Hedrich Blessing, Steve Hall
Selected Recognition: 1997 Brick in Architecture Award, Brick Institute of America, American Institute of Architects. 1996 Award of Distinction, Illinois Association of School Boards. 1996 Distinguished Building Award, American Institute of Architects Chicago. 1994 Institute Honor Award, American Institute of Architects. 1993 Silver Medal, Illinois Indiana Masonry

Cesar Chavez Multicultural Academic Center is sited on a fragment of a city block, this 64,000 square foot public school serves Chicago’s gritty, Back-of-the-Yards neighborhood. The three-story, single loaded plan, diverts the gaze from the unpleasant alley and maximizes play space. With classrooms facing the front yard, the site is easily supervised. The gymnasium, cafeteria, multi-purpose room, and library are housed in two-story pavilions connected to the classroom block. Exuberant colors, textures, and forms reinforce the societal importance of the structure and convey excitement about education. The pyramid’s lighted apex is a beacon for the community. The usual palette of concrete block and acoustical tile was expanded to include other inexpensive, durable materials. Particleboard is used as paneling in the lobby and corridors. Exposed concrete ceilings are painted sky blue. Vinyl tiles are laid like confetti, marking the entrances to classrooms. Accent colors change from bright and bold for the primary grades to sedate and serious for the upper grades. In all classrooms the basic scheme is natural wood and white walls becoming a personal canvas for students and teachers.