Beacon of Hope
The first Catholic high school to be built on Chicago’s West Side in more than 80 years, Christ the King Jesuit College Preparatory School sets a striking contrast to its decayed surroundings. A tonal arrangement of fiber cement panels adds depth to the façade and gives it a corporate appearance in keeping with the business-like approach of the school.
Architect John Ronan has designed a 94,000 square foot building for 600 students that mirrors an existing Jesuit middle school on the same block, thus embracing an enclosed landscaped courtyard. Lined with digitally printed cladding panels that depict the Stations of the Cross, the courtyard serves as a sacred space for religious services as well as an outdoor gathering and recreation area. The building itself comprises a three-story academic wing running east-west that connects at right angles to a large, but slightly lower sports hall that can also be used as an auditorium.
The building has a business-like aesthetic. We wanted it to look less like a traditional school and more like a company.
The two-story main entrance on Jackson Boulevard leads into the lobby, which houses a reception area. Placed in the vertex of the L-shaped structure is the dining room, whose floor-to-ceiling glazing emphasises the public aspirations of the new school. In addition, the academic wing accommodates twenty-five state-of-the-art classrooms, administrative offices, and science and computer labs along with various meeting rooms and counselling suites. The library is situated on the top floor and overlooks the courtyard and the adjacent Moore Park through a largescale panoramic window.
However, the most remarkable space in the overall complex is the 210-seat St. Ignatius Loyola Chapel, which anchors the eastern end of the building. The concretefloored sanctuary is lit from above by a skylight monitor, which runs through all three stories of the building and captures additional morning light through three wave-distorted glass block walls. The remaining interior wall is backed with sound insulation and clad with cross-shaped perforated Swisspearl panels. Thus, along with the acoustic stretch-fabric ceiling, it provides for a subdued sound level within the chapel.
The building is designed to inspire. With God’s grace, we are creating a beacon of light and hope – a place where our young people will become tomorrow’s leaders; leaders who not only better themselves, but commit to serve and lift up their community.”
Rev. Christopher J. Devron, SJ, School President
For speed of construction, Ronan used a steel-frame structure with concrete plank floors for the academic wing and load-bearing masonry with long-span trusses for the gym. A seemingly random arrangement of windows and Swisspearl panels in a blue and grey color scheme gives the two building parts a unified and deliberate corporate appearance, echoing the business-like approach of the school and setting it apart from the modest brick houses of its environs. Christ the King is the latest in a series of educational buildings by John Ronan, such as the Akiba-Schechter Jewish Day School and the award-winning Gary Comer Youth Center. Christ the King’s thoughtful and elaborate interaction of form, space and materiality, engendered by a genuine concern for social issues, corroborates Ronan’s standing as ‘one of the leaders of Chicago’s architectural resurgence’ (Blair Kamin, Chicago Tribune).
NICE TO KNOW
Christ the King Jesuit College Preparatory School
5088 W. Jackson Boulevard, Chicago, IL, USA
Archdiocese of Chicago, USA
John Ronan Architects, Chicago, USA
Nathan Kirkman, Chicago, USA
2008 – 2012
Norcon, Inc., Chicago, USA
The Levy Co., Northbrook, IL, USA
Swisspearl Carat Black Opal 7021, Sapphire 7060, 7061
PDF project sheet
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