Wheeler Kearns Architects
Illinois Brick Company
The 32,000 square-foot project expands the preexisting Hebrew school and synagogue, one of the oldest in Chicago. The expansion furthers the individual identity of both institutions, which have shared the same facilities since 1948, and reorients the school towards a newly constructed plaza and loggia. The addition embeds timeless Jewish principles and ideas into the structure and experience of the building while providing an efficient, sustainable innovative learning environment for future generations.
The challenge Wheeler Kearns Architects faced on this project was to take a heavy earthen material and render it as a light, delicate veil, evoking the Jewish tallit (prayer shawl.) They considered the brick panels of the facade as part of the tzitzit (fringe) knotted at the corners of the tallit. In order to emphasize the thinness of the veil, they developed a series of exposed masonry jambs and headers so that the single wythe of brick was visible both from the interior and exterior.
The result is a facade that provides the illusion of weightlessness. The building uses daylight, open space, visual connection, and material cues so visitors can intuit their way through the building. Most importantly, the building makes all visitors, staff, faculty, and students feel like they have a place to call home.
Architect: Wheeler Kearns Architects
General Contractor: Bulley & Andrews
Masonry Contractor: J&E Duff
Brick Distributor: Illinois Brick Company
Photography: Steve Hall, Hall + Merrick Photographers
2019 Brick in Architecture Award, Best in Class: Educational - K-12
2020 - The Architect’s Newspaper (AN) Best of Design Awards - Facades, Honorable Mention
2020 - AIA Chicago Distinguished Building Award, Citation of Merit