A school designed with decades of experience and global best practices to deliver an education needed for the 22nd century
Architecture firm BLDD created the master plan and interior design for the Chicago Flagship Campus for Bennett Day School in close collaboration with the school’s senior team, advisory board, and faculty. Inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach and best practices in education from around the world, the learning environment and building design are intentionally constructed as a ‘Third Teacher’ alongside the faculty and school families. In this way, space uniquely serves a higher function as a canvas for interaction, inspiration, and reflection via student and small group work displayed and shared with our community.
Adaptive Reuse, With Spaces to Tinker and Gather as a Community
Renovating and reusing an existing building in Chicago at 955 W Grand Avenue is a sustainable and environmentally conscious strategy important to Bennett Day School for its Flagship Campus. The campus opened fall of 2016 for students in Senior Kindergarten through Second Grade (five- to seven-year olds), and with a new grade opening each year up to Eighth Grade. The property is secured as the school’s home with a long-term lease of 30 years.
The existing 35,000-square-foot structure will serve the Lower School. The first floor design contains Senior Kindergarten and First Grade classrooms, as well as a Piazza. Piazza and common area as a central gathering place to respectfully display, respect, and reflect on student work. Members of the design team were inspired to create a Piazza at Bennett Day School after traveling to Reggio Emilia, Italy where a town square piazza serves this same purpose for the community.
The lower level layout of the campus also contains a large community eating and gathering area where reusable dishes, bowls, and cutlery are utilized for our family-style meals together among students and faculty.
The second floor design contains second, and third grade classrooms, as well as a TinkerLab. The TinkerLab is the school’s own interpretation of a more classic atelier space or art studio in the Reggio Emilia approach, but now with a broader cross-subject focus across science, technology, engineering, and mathematics in tinkering spaces designed specifically for project-based and hands-on learning.
The third floor design contains fourth and fifth grade classrooms, an art lab, and another TinkerLab. The fourth floor design provides a music lab, a science lab with direct access to an outdoor garden, and a 3,300-square-foot indoor play area.
To accommodate the Middle School opening in the fall of 2020, an addition of over 40,000-square-feet will be built next to the existing building with additional classrooms and TinkerLabs, a cooking lab, another music lab, and a state-of-the-art gymnasium built to high-school size dimensions with locker rooms as competitive sports will be hosted at the school.
Abundant Access to the Outdoors at School
Access to the outdoors and green space is a priority in the Reggio Emilia approach with the environment considered the ‘Third Teacher’, and there are over 10,000-square-feet of playground and garden spaces in the layout of the Flagship Campus. Wonderful contiguous green spaces at the Flagship Campus are being designed and integrated with the curriculum and approach in mind. With green space that is so easily accessible, safety, gardening, water play, digging, climbing, and crawling — all will be possible right on campus.