Skip to main content

Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Award for Architectural Excellence, 1st Place

Arising amid and in stark contrast to the elevated roadways that speed trucks and cars above and past the intersection of 79th and South Chicago, the multi-colored façade and illuminated tower of the Gary Comer Youth Center emit a strong message to those passing by – that this is a structure meant to anchor, not evade, the community. Designed by architect John Ronan, the building speaks of the colorful community in which it resides and reflects the vibrant lives of those who learn and play within.

Home to the South Shore Drill Team and open to all community members, the building was carefully conceived to provide flexible space for a multiplicity of community needs. Large open spaces are elegantly designed for assembly and other activities, and include a gym that can be converted to a 600 seat performance space and an exhibition space that holds more than 200 people but is able to be divided into small classrooms. Numerous windows and skylights provide light and amplify the spaciousness of the building while reinforcing the sense of connection to the surrounding community. Outdoor spaces are equally well designed with a paved area serving as parking lot, drill grounds and exterior auditorium. Similarly a working garden on the roof provides a wonderful teaching space while rendering the building energy efficient.

For its innovative design, and visual and social impact on the surrounding community, the Gary Comer Youth Center and John Ronan Architect are awarded this year’s First Place Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Award for Architectural Excellence in Community Design.