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

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

(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)

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.

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.