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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Project of Distinction
FGM Architects Inc.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
CommunityOn-Site Design Team Approach
Create a Vision
Create a Program
Create a Concept
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
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
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.
“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
“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
“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