Locke School
Public Work – Chicago, Illinois

Josephine Locke School, located on the northwest side of Chicago, is a large elementary school but one that tries to get the most out of every student. The school has an International Baccalaureate program that encourages students to build core values of discipline, tolerance, and respect that they will carry forward as they grow into young adults. School leaders wanted to give these students an area on the campus that stimulated this dialogue and interaction. Previously a large asphalt area adjacent to the employee parking lot, the site was a blank slate. Working with Openlands, school faculty, and students, a program was developed for the design work: a place where teachers can bring students for outdoor learning or reading sessions, a space for social interaction, and a pickup area for parents at the end of the day. The final design incorporates a long, curved concrete retaining wall separates the main pathway into the school from an interior seating space of large stone boulders. The wall itself is decorated with mosaics produced by a local art group and student volunteers.  To align with the schools IB mission, the artwork incorporates the word “peace” in seven different languages and plants and animals associated with the corresponding regions and cultures. New shade and ornamental trees, shrubs, and tall grasses help screen the area from the parking lot and make for a more inviting, restful experience.