Latin School of Chicago
To design public space that was interactive and beautiful in which the flooring played a dynamic role where every element promotes learning. Flooring had to provide excellent sound abatement qualities, maintenance characteristics, a wide and exuberant color range, capacity for water jet cutting, and other high performance qualities.
Taralay Compact Premium (Metallica & Indiana) and Saga2
Teacher, students, and administrators are all IN LOVE with the design and how the space can be used for teaching, socializing or doing homework.
The Latin School of Chicago was formed in 1888 and is one of the oldest independent schools in the city of Chicago. It enrolls 1,100 children in grades junior kindergarten through 12, which are housed in three academic buildings. The Interactive Science Forum is part of an overall 80,000 square feet master redesign plan in which design elements were created with class curriculum in mind and to enhance learning.
Architecture Is Fun, Inc. specified Gerflor flooring in a 2,200 square foot space in the Interactive Science Forum. The design was created in collaboration with students, teachers of cross-disciplines, facility managers, administration, and Latin School of Chicago representatives. Nagle Hartray Architecture, architects of record, were responsible for the master design plan and specified Taralay Compact Premium in 30,000 square feet of laboratory and science offices on the 3rd and 4th floors of the Science Center.
The best testament to this project’s creativity and design comes from a student who stated it very simply, yet eloquently when he said: “This place makes me WANT to learn!” Great design inspires and stimulates the mind. Flooring – a crucial design element in any space – takes on a new meaning in the Interactive Science Forum of the Latin School of Chicago. This über-creative project where flooring acts as a primary design component is evidence that building materials can serve dual purposes where function and form meet.
The Interactive Science Forum is located in an 80,000 square foot building that also houses the 5th and 6th grade suite, as well as the new Upper School science center. The forum leads into the physics, chemistry, biology, and independent study laboratories, as well as the lounge for breakout study, tutoring, or small group problem-solving. This space fuses together the creative processes of science and art where the flooring plays a dynamic role in the overall design. Its bold color range, patterns and water jet cut-ins delineate real-time science elements making the flooring a learning tool.
What’s more, the design of the floor becomes a 4D textbook, supporting the school curriculum in science and math where embedded grids and scales allow students to record, measure and test thoughts and theories. Ultramarine welding rods were set precisely one meter apart creating a base floor grid, reminiscent of graph paper and allowing budding scientists to experiment with laws of motion and inertia. Use of the flooring as a teaching tool enhances class discussion and provides context for math and science lessons. Hands-on learning has been proven to increase student performance, so using building materials, such as the flooring, to enhance the educational experience was paramount.
In addition, flooring imagery and patters also function as way-finding elements to draw students into the lounge for quiet study or brainstorming with classmates. Neon particle trails, the curving paths of subatomic particles, were water jet cut into the flooring to intentionally collide with the public space, which further creates an environment of innovation, interaction, investigation and inquiry where student discovery occurs.
Since the Interactive Science Forum also acts as a public space, durability, sound abatement, stains & chemical resistance, sustainability and maintenance were all considered in the specification of the appropriate flooring. Gerflor’s brilliant color palette combined with these excellent performance characteristics made it a viable and appropriate choice for this project.
Day-to-day activities in the Interactive Science Forum can best be described as enriching with hands-on experiences. The entire space functions as a “curiosity cabinet” and every surface, including the flooring, builds off each other. Just as scientists make many discoveries while in the field, the Interactive Science Forum encourages students to engage beyond the classroom where they can literally touch and feel what they’re working (and walking) on during the day. Sharon Exley, MAAE and President of Architecture Is Fun, Inc. says the flooring supports school curriculum in an active way by bringing information in science and math books to life. She goes on to say that children want to “live up” to the vibrant, interactive space and thus, learning and sharing information are elevated by the overall design.
Additionally, when talking about the space, some of the students put it nicely when they said: I can't believe how great this space is; I could use this data for my biology class. I am so excited; This just makes me want to go back and redo all of my science classes; This is the best science facility ever; I LOVE this floor; It’s the Golden Ration – how cool they included that; I feel like I am in the future; I am going to spend all of my free time here; and this is like a great museum, but we are actually allowed to touch everything!