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Sanjay Gangal
Sanjay Gangal
Sanjay Gangal is the President of IBSystems, the parent company of, MCADCafe, EDACafe.Com, GISCafe.Com, and ShareCG.Com.

UNO Elementary School Soccer Academy in Chicago, Illinois by JGMA

February 15th, 2012 by Sanjay Gangal

Article source: JGMA

Opened in September 2011, this is the first link of a soccer-focused master plan developed by United Neighborhood Organization (UNO). The innovative design and school program take on a new and progressive approach to education.

Overall view looking Northeast towards the main entry

  • Architects: JGMA
  • Project: UNO Elementary School Soccer Academy
  • Location: Chicago, Illinois
  • Completion Date: September 2011
  • Owner:United Neighborhood Organization (UNO)
  • Design Team: Juan Gabriel Moreno, Cosmin Vrajitoru, Jason Nuttelman, John Rausch, David Ruffing, Linda Chavez, Michael Cady

Elementary School Soccer Academy overlooking future international soccer field

  • Design Builder/Structural:Ghafari
  • Electrical & Mechanical Consultant: Primera
  • Landscape Architect:Terry Guen Associates
  • Project Area: 63,300 sf
  • Photographs and Drawings: Courtesy of JGMA


The school culminates in an impressive multi-purpose room with spectacular views of the Chicago skyline and the future master plan campus

Located on the Southwest side of Chicago in the Gage Park neighborhood, the building stands as a shinning beacon for the community. Engaging students as well as residents of the predominantly Hispanic neighborhood to play active roles in their education, through means of a strong curriculum supplemented by the culturally embraced sport of soccer, community outreach programs, and intelligent design.


View of the East entry

The design of the building itself is inspired in part by the educational development of the children it serves. Just as a child grows, the building appears to grow out of the ground, where programs such as learning theaters, administrative components, and classrooms frame a soccer field courtyard. Developmentally essential programs including a fitness center and resource library progress the movement of the building gradually upward. Finally, the building culminates in a community center that frames views of the Chicago skyline, inspiring students and neighboring residents to achieve their potential.

The building's emergence from the ground creates a portal to the soccer field courtyard

This highly innovative design turns a conventional elementary school inside out. By locating the corridors along the largely glass perimeter of the building while simultaneously locating a full-height glass wall along the interior classrooms, the school is able to dramatically increase daylight and views inside the classrooms. Natural light is therefore allowed to fully penetrate the spaces, creating an effective and efficient teaching and learning environment. This arrangement allows for the additional benefits of increased teaching surfaces in the classrooms, as well as a heightened sense of community connectivity whereby student activity within the corridors is showcased along the building’s exterior.


The strong, fluid movement of the building upward is inspired by the growth and educational development of the students it serves

This community connectivity is not only echoed on the inside corridors; it also permeates throughout the exterior where the building form creates different plazas and open spaces to engage with the school users as well as with the community. This engagement aligns directly with one of the main project goals: to create a school as a tool for social change. A changed that initiated with the selection of the site: a residual abandoned industrial site.


The public cafe and service area are seamlessly integrated into the design and help define the space of the soccer field courtyard entry

The project then builds up pedestrian-friendly areas and encourages diversity in an urban area with dense population and takes advantage of existing infrastructure including public transportation.

The formal qualities of the building's fenestration denotes a programmatic change from classrooms to administration spaces

This school embodies what educational facilities should represent; the hopes and dreams of their local communities; where neighborhood identity is created, parents and community are part of the education, enriching cultural traditions, and most of all telling to the young generations that where they come from matters as much as where they’re going.

The full height exterior glass walls and adjacent interior glass walls along the classroom corridors allow an abundance of natural light to enter the classrooms

UNO The building lobby produces and open feeling with views to the surrounding neighborhood, entry plaza, and soccer field courtyard

View looking Southeast into the soccer field courtyard

Contact JGMA

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Categories: School, Sports Complex

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