robert benson

robert benson

Chicago, IL, US


Rockford Public Schools, Two New Prototype Elementary Schools

Recognizing that children are a segment of the population with zero political power other than by proxy, the design team sought to change this dynamic by empowering students and incorporating them into the design process. The resulting architecture creates unique spaces irresistible to children, collaborative learning and opportunity for true community.

What’s opposite of child-proof? In K-5 schools, the student experience is best when not static. Designed for the empowerment of choice, the architecture at the Rockford Public Schools Elementary School Prototype engages children and embraces their perspective. Dynamic furniture allows activity-based learning of mass and void relationships at child-sized scale, while encouraging the spatial reasoning essential for their development. Their natural need for movement is accommodated, allowing concentration on classroom lessons.

During visioning, the team decided to add to its definition of empowerment of choice as a central theme of the design concept when it learned of the at-risk children in the student population. Not original to the program by the district, the team incorporated a town hall into the plan without increasing square footage. The team efficiently co-located the required spaces of the gymnasium, café, art room and library to create a new heart for the school, adding empowerment of voice to the student body. Dedicated staff hold morning group sessions for students in the town hall as a safe space to discuss challenges at the school. The Rockford prototype stands as an empowering example of a school designed with, not for, children.

Read more

Status: Built
Location: Rockford, IL, US