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JGMA for Instituto Health Sciences Career Academy: 2nd Place Driehaus Award for Architectural Excellence

For its creative reuse of an abandoned structure and its creation of a new focal point for community health issues, JGMA is the 2014 winner of the Second Place Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Award for Excellence in Community Design, for its Instituto Health Sciences Career Academy.

On South Western Avenue in Pilsen, a deteriorating and abandoned industrial building has been transformed into the Instituto Health Sciences Career Academy (IHSCA), a charter high school with a health sciences and college preparatory focus that aims to train the next generation of nurses, doctors and scientists. Recruited for the job by Instituto del Progreso Latino (IDPL), the architects at JGMA repurposed the three-story, 77,000-square-foot building into a state-of-the-art facility and community anchor.

Reconceptualized as a school during a community charrette in 2007, the 1920s-era, heavy timber and brick building was expanded and renovated. A gleaming new color-morphing facade echoes the creativity within the building. This high performance skin, or “rain screen” technology, dramatically improves the thermal performance of the building envelope. The building’s bright, contemporary interior design enhances the school’s cutting-edge educational strategies and technological teaching tools. In addition to classrooms and computer labs, IHSCA is home to health career and family resource centers; a community clinic and library; a dining/multi-purpose room with a dramatic skyline view; a fitness center with a climbing wall; and administrative and conference spaces.

Categorized by “Community,” “College,” “Hospital,” and “Biotech,” each floor of the school is easily identifiable by a uniquely bright color scheme, graphics and furniture—all meant to instill a positive and energetic attitude in the school’s 600 students. The school’s curriculum integrates hands-on health sciences training with a focus on college attendance and future employment in the health care sector. In addition to a diploma, students are given the option of graduating with certification in nursing, health administration or health technology.

The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Award for Architectural Excellence in Community Design was created, in conjunction with the Chicago Neighborhood Development Awards, to encourage development that respects and strengthens the city’s unmatched architectural heritage – especially in neighborhoods confronting economic and social challenge. Each year, the Award recognizes three developments that are making a significant contribution to the social, visual and cultural life of their neighborhoods through quality of design.