Chicago Architecture Info

GEMS World Academy Chicago Lower School

350 East South Water Street
Chicago, Illinois 60601
Basic Information
Designed by bKL Architecture
Floors: 10
Neighborhood: The Loop
Bounding Streets:
East South Water Street
North Field Boulevard
East Wacker Drive
North Columbus Drive
More Information
  • Maximum height: 153 feet
  • Floor space: 82,000 square feet
  • Maximum students: 660
  • One of two GEMS World Academy buildings in Lakeshore East. This is the "Lower School," meaning it is for grades K-4. Its companion is the "Middle-Upper School" immediately north at 355 East Wacker Drive, which is for grades 6-12.
  • The colors that were chosen reflect the natural environment around the building— the fountains, trees and brick homes surrounding Lakeshore East Park.
  • From a distance, the colored stripes may look like painted glass, but they’re actually color-infused metal panels, which will resist fading than merely painted pieces.
  • The roof of this building has a playground.
  • This building's height was restricted so that it didn't obscure views from the adjacent residential building.
  • The dining hall features floor-to-ceiling windows and an outdoor terrace overlooking Lakeshore East Park.
  • The 170-seat cafeteria level is at the middle of the buildings, so classrooms extend both upward and downward, reducing the amount of travel time required for students to make the journey.
  • On the levels immediately above the dining hall there is a gymnasium, a science room, a music room, an art room, and a library.
  • The stairwells are extra wide to handle the floods of students during class changes.
  • If a teacher needs to move an large group of students as a single unit, that can be accomplished via a super-sized elevator that can hold an entire class.
  • All of the classrooms are on the south side of the structure, giving them views over the park, and the potential for lots of natural sunlight, even in winter.
  • The school is connected to Chicago’s pedway system, allowing children who live in Aqua, The Tides, Columbus Plaza, and other forward-looking buildings to go to school in the dead of winter without ever having to go outside.
  • June 2013: Groundbreaking.
  • December 2, 2013: This building topped out.
  • Spring 2014: This building opened.