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2008 Exhibition of School Planning and Architecture. Hickory Creek Middle School. Frankfort, Illinois New Construction Project of Distinction FGM Architects Inc. Hickory Creek Middle School. “Cafetorium” Lights Up for Night Performances. Community Environment:

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hickory creek middle school

2008 Exhibition of School Planning and Architecture

Hickory Creek Middle School

Frankfort, Illinois

New Construction

Project of Distinction

FGM Architects Inc.

cafetorium lights up for night performances
“Cafetorium” Lights Up for Night Performances

Community Environment:

A primary goal was to create a school that provides spaces for the community. This includes an arts wing on the southeast corner of the building, a cafetorium that features performing arts space, and a state-of-the-art gymnasium. These spaces are used extensively with the community that places high emphasis on performing arts and athletics.

A priority was given to make these spaces accessible to the community while maintaining security of academic areas. Architects placed lower masses in front of taller masses to break down the scale of the large 191,690 sf building for all users.

gymnasium center for community events
Gymnasium: Center for Community Events

Community Environment: (Cont.)

The school is sited next to a single-family residential area, so the academic areas are arranged slightly turned on the site to soften the appearance of the school as it is approached from the main road. Warm masonry colors were selected for their compatibility with local nature colors.

The site is landscaped with natural plantings beyond the playfields and with planters close to the building to buffer the building from the residential neighborhood.

grade level houses
Grade Level Houses

Learning Environment:

In a community where large schools are accepted for the operational efficiencies (both high schools in the community are around 4,000 students), the district wanted to provide small learning communities within the larger new middle school. Planning of the school breaks the scale of the academic area down into three two-story academic houses of up to 470 students.

Functional spaces within each house are clustered around one large group learning area including science, resource computer labs, outdoor learning labs, and teacher planning spaces. The large group learning area allows for small group pull-out, student work display, and cooperative learning.

house plan
House Plan

Learning Environment (Cont.):

The learning community/teaming

approach meets students’

emotional needs, builds

character, and increases

achievement. The more nurturing

environment allows students and

teachers to connect.

Each house allows team teachers

to give students personalized

attention, and allows for

curricular connections across

content areas.

student commons
Student Commons

Physical Environment :

The following circulation zones achieve a

secure environment for users and reinforce

the environment desired by the District:

Public Circulation Corridor: Allows students,

faculty, and community to enter the lobby

and commons which lead to the heart of the

school: the media center, the gymnasium,

and the cafetorium.

Semi-Public Circulation Corridor: Gives

access to encore programs, such as band,

music, computers, and outdoor learning labs.

Private Circulation Corridor: Maintains the

small learning environment within each

house. Three private circulation

corridors correspond to each grade-level

house. Stairs and three ADA accessible

elevators allow everyone to move between

their two-story house.

natural light in band room
Natural Light in Band Room

Physical Environment (Cont.)

A sophisticated palette of materials was selected to reflect the District’s goal of creating an environment similar to a higher educational learning environment. The materials and finishes selected are also low maintenance and will generate long-term maintenance savings.

Daylight and occupancy sensors control the lighting systems to maximize energy efficiency. The building supports both a wired network and wireless environment for personal computer use anywhere in the building and throughout the outdoor learning labs.

on site design team approach

Step 2


Forum 1

Step 3


Forum 2

Step 4


Forum 3





















On-Site Design Team Approach

Create a Vision

Create a Program

Create a Concept

Step 1



Planning Process:

The architects used their trademark On-Site Design Team (OSDT) approach to facilitate a master plan for the district’s new middle school. This approach involved the participation of the community, school board, administration, faculty, staff, and students throughout the design process. Three community forums, in the format of a series of open town hall-style meetings were used to solicit active input from diverse members and groups with the community. The task force then made recommendations to the Board of Education.








Board of Education

Board of Education

Board of Education

Board of Education

community forums
Community Forums

Planning Process: (Cont.)

Vision (Forum 1) The cooperative vision

became the base of how future

decisions were evaluated. This shared

experience built a sense of trust and

camaraderie throughout the group.

Program (Forum 2) Questions were asked to

the community including, “How can we

maximize parent involvement? How big will

the school be? How can the district

incorporate its small learning community

philosophy in the school? What are the best

ways to circulate students before and after


Concept (Forum 3) Using information from

the first two forums, design exercises

were done with everyone. This ranged from

in-school sessions with students of all ages,

to community and administration actively

participating during the forum. The result is a

large, enthusiastic, and diverse group of

participants that can communicate the

process and ideas that have formed their

new school.

the cafetorium
“The Cafetorium”

Multipurpose Space

The challenge presented to the architects was the district needed both a cafeteria space that would accommodate 470 students at each lunch period, and an auditorium space that could accommodate an audience of 600 for the new school. The space would not only accommodate student drama and music productions, but also bring in professional theater companies such as the Chicago Shakespeare Theater.

To meet the function and maintain budget, the design teams developed a concept for a single space, the Cafetorium, which serves both purposes. Wing areas, catwalk systems, audio enhancement systems, acoustical clouds, and acoustically absorptive draperies and panels support drama and music productions. Clerestory windows and large pivoting doors allow for the introduction of daylight and views to create a pleasant dining experience.

The resulting tiered space provides the benefit of smaller dining areas that are more easily managed by district staff while the cafeteria is in use. The ability to set up the room as either cafeteria or theater is supported by the inclusion of storage rooms at each tier for chairs and tables.

community s involvement with planning
Community’s Involvement with Planning

“When addressing growth, the district faced the question of neighborhood schools versus grade-level centers.

Using the community / teaming approach enabled us to take advantage of both arrangements by imposing a small neighborhood feel on a large grade-level center.”

- Courtney Stillman, School Board President; Illinois School Board Journal; January/February 2006 Vol. 74 No. 1

community s involvement with planning1
Community’s Involvement with Planning

“You have three or four team teachers who give students a lot of attention. A team organizes a student’s day. I like developing a name and having competitions. I will get to know the student and teachers I am working with.”

- Tyler Plantz, Eighth Grade Student,

Excerpt from Illinois School Board Journal; January/February 2006 Vol. 74 No. 1

community s involvement with planning2
Community’s Involvement with Planning

“I think communities are a great idea. As a parent, it helps my children get to know the other students a lot better because they are with the same students year after year. As a teacher, I can collaborate with the teachers within the grade levels as well as the teachers within my community.

- Michelle Piunti, Teacher and Parent, Illinois School Board Journal; January/February 2006 Vol. 74 No. 1