The 27-acre school, formerly known as Chicago Vocational High School, was built for $3.5 million, with 45 percent of the cash coming from the federal Public Works Administration. The result was a big, robust complex rendered in a blocky, 1930s-modern esthetic. Once you get past the school’s size, there are a host of nicely-done abstract architectural details such as the auditorium’s stately columns seen in the above photo. Or the lamp—part of the school’s crest—above the school’s main entrance in the photo below.
And can I give a shout-out to the Broadway typeface used in the school’s name? Quite hip. The style was less than a decade old when the school was designed and would have conveyed newness and modernity at the time.
The bas relief exterior details also showcase the various trades that were taught at the school. The one below shows a printing press (full disclosure: I’m a 1983 graduate of Chicago Vocational. Graphic Arts/Print Shop was my major):
The completion date, etched in stone above the school’s main entrance, boasts a completion date of 1938–which is untrue. A labor dispute held up construction for two years and the campus opened in August of 1940.
Chicago Vocational re-opens in the fall as one of the city’s five STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) academies. The hope is that these six-year schools, with a curriculum and program developed by IBM, Cisco, Microsoft, Motorola Solutions and Verizon, will return the school to its original mission of producing graduates for the workforce.
And providing a great piece of architecture in which to learn.