Almost too cool for (a) school: The new Skinner elementary

January 21, 2010

(photo by Lee Bey)
(photo by Lee Bey)

Chicago can build some pretty great-looking schools when it wants to.

The good thing?‚  It frequently wants to. Mark T. Skinner West Classical elementary school is a bright new addition to that body of architecture.‚  The‚  three story, largely masonry building set on a steel frame, opened this school year at 1260 W. Adams. The showpiece is the building's main entry where brick, metal and glass meet with the exuberance of a kindergartner rushing to greet his mother after school.

(photo by Lee Bey)
(photo by Lee Bey)

It's a sharp-looking‚  school designed by Chicago architecture firm SMNG-A.‚  A student lunchroom, library and gym are stacked on three floors behind the building's metal exterior on Adams Street.‚  Features include solar shades‚  and a green roof irrigated by the old reclaimed water tank to the right of the photo.‚  The 101,000 sq ft school cost $41.6 million, according to the city.

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The new building replaced previous Skinner school, a nondescript mid-century building at 111 S. Throop. The school is the latest in a line of succession for schools named for Skinner, a prominent 19th century Chicago figure who was--at various times--a judge, a lawyer, a federal district attorney, a school inspector, a co-founder of what is now People's Gas, and a director of two different railroads. Judge‚  Skinner has so much swagger, the first‚  Mark T. Skinner school located at Jackson and Aberdeen--and described at the time as one of the city's largest schools--was named for him in 1859, almost 30 years before his death in 1887.