East St. Louis High School shows how architecture can create a new "sense of place" in this remarkable transformation of an aging school that repositions it for the 21st Century.
The extensive renovation and large additions for East St. Louis High School confirm equity and creates a community of learning in a long under-served inner city school district. Our 10-year relationship with the district established our dialogue with diverse and often untapped voices, ensuring the building renovations represented the entire community. The architectural outcome was determined by the stakeholders’ high level of dedicated involvement. We helped them realize this outcome through the design of two large additions: a gym and career center, and complete renovations of both the interior and exterior of the building. Careful planning and tight programming also allowed us to provide spaces the district could grow into, offering amenities like a generous learning stair and large collaboration spaces commonly found in wealthier districts. Infilling the courtyard allowed the building to be substantially reconfigured with a double-height media/technology center forming a central innovation hub.
Located in a city notorious for high crime, we worked with the community to make this school a sanctuary, providing a respite from the city surrounding it. Well-considered architectural features help minimize the chance of sparring between students. For instance, a new entry for students arriving by bus is generously scaled, and the circulation path is split by a welcoming canopy with seating. With multiple sets of doors and a built-in barrier, friction between arriving students can be avoided, making getting into school a safer experience.
Names throughout the building of famous local luminaries reflect the area’s rich heritage. The prized Miles Davis Auditorium is the culmination of a goal to honor past tradition with modern spaces. The overall result is a building that fosters community pride and provides students the many resources they need to achieve success.