Evanston elementary school’s new look earns design award

Jia You, City Editor

With a new vegetable garden and stairwells with glass walls, Lincoln Elementary School’s new look has earned honors from a national design magazine.

The Evanston school’s renovation project, completed at the beginning of this school year, was one of 16 elementary schools nationwide featured as outstanding projects in Learning by Design. The magazine awards designs for educational institutions from the pre-K to college level.

“The update makes the school brighter and friendlier while portraying the history of the building,” the editors wrote about Lincoln’s renovation project.

Preserving the original building was a top concern when the architects at Michigan-based TMP Architecture Inc. approached the Lincoln renovation project. The school, built in the 1890s, had undergone multiple additions and renovations over the years and looked to accommodate a growing population and address safety issues in the latest renovation, project designer Eduardo Blanc said.

“It’s a combination of preservation of the existing building and at the same time bringing a new expression to the building,” Blanc said. “The building itself was part of the reason why we were awarded.”

To achieve a balance between preservation and renovation, the architects organized focus groups with students, teachers and parents to hear their vision for an ideal school. The group also conducted extensive research into the school’s architectural history.

The result? A new two-story lobby incorporating the original stone entry arch and wall, six learning studios, a vegetable garden and an auditorium converted into a multipurpose room, among other enhancements.

“Everybody had a role in helping to identify the kinds of things they’d like to see in the school,” District 65 spokeswoman Pat Markham said.

Sustainability was another priority for the architects: They used glass to bring abundant natural light to the school, built a more efficient ventilation system and used recyclable materials.

The company is working with Lincoln to improve security and design areas reserved for art displays, Blanc said.

Lincoln’s new design “reflects a collective vision of the parents, students and staff so that the school represents community values through its function, aesthetics and architecture,” District 65 Superintendent Hardy Murphy said last week in a news release.