Whose idea was
this? Who was involved in its creation?
The goal of updating key aspects of the Laboratory
Schools’ physical plant goes back nearly 20 years to school leaders: Lab Board
members, teachers, parents, administrators, and consultants who saw core areas that
needed improvement. The desire to reignite interest in achieving goals that
were not addressed then (for financial and other reasons) began in July 2003,
when a new director joined the schools.
Since 2003, virtually every member of the Schools’
community—all teachers, administrators, parents, staff, and many members of the
University of Chicago administration have had the opportunity to offer ideas,
make suggestions, and be involved. The alderman has also hosted open forums
inviting the communities surround the Schools to participate.
What is Lab’s
pedagogy and how did it inform the process?
We often refer to
the term “pedagogy” when discussing the Lab+ project. Simply put, pedagogy
refers to the art, science, or profession of teaching. Lab’s pedagogy goes back
more than 100 years, and in creating new spaces for our Schools the architects
have been fully anchored by this approach to teaching and learning. Within a
few years of starting the school, founder John Dewey outlined the beliefs that
have continued to guide us:
from an environment where teachers and students learn from each other.
best through experimentation, reflecting on the conditions and consequences of
By contributing to
others, students develop their individuality and unique capacities to add to
the common good.
At its best, a
school exemplifies a purer form of our society’s democratic principles so that
students grow into adults who improve their world.
What informed the
Once Valerio DeWalt Train and FGM were hired as
project architects, they began their preparation with extensive groundwork
before ever designing additions or new buildings:architects spent days immersing themselves in the
Schools’ activities with students and faculty.
They also conducted more than 90 hours of
interviews with teachers, parents, students, staff, and administrators from every
division and academic and co-curricular unit.
A “visioning” group of 26 University and Lab administrators,
the four principals, teachers, parents, and students met with the architects
help define the priority needs of the new facilities,
with experts in fields as diverse as
management science, psychology, information technology, arts education, library
planning, and even anthropology and genetics.
VDTA/FGM and representatives of Lab visited
best-in-class schools around the country to help inform their recommendations
Why do we need a
Don’t we have enough space already? Why not
build on our current campus?
Our existing space simply cannot accommodate the
additional 276 students that Lab will enroll over the next decade in its
efforts to 1) maintain the University/non-University, socio-economic, and
racial diversity that has been the hallmark of a Lab education, and 2) create a U-High with a large
enough student body to support important academic programs and extra-curricular
activities to attract the best students in Chicago.
Even without these additional students, the Schools
have long faced space issues that constrain our programs. For example, theater
and arts spaces are either much too small for the caliber or demands of our
programs and student interest and/or are squeezed into spaces never meant for
The architects explored at least a half dozen
configurations of new spaces on Lab’s existing footprint. All required a major
sacrifice of green space, which goes directly against fundamental (and
pedagogical) requirements for Lab teaching—both in terms of simple unstructured
outdoor play and formal P.E. and athletic programmatic needs.
The Schools even explored moving the Frank R.
Lillie House, a designated National Historic Landmark, which sits next to the
Schools on the SE corner of 58th and Kenwood. It proved an untenable solution.