Belden Brick

Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School Expansion

Chicago, IL


Wheeler Kearns Architects


Illinois Brick Company


Belcrest 650

Constructed in Chicago’s Lake View neighborhood just a few blocks west of Lake Michigan, the expansion of the Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day primary school cuts a fine figure. The project, completed in 2019 and designed by Chicago firm Wheeler Kearns Architects, features a veil of light-beige Belcrest 650 brick draped over a rectangular volume and studded with vertically-oriented ribbons of glazing.


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 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

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