• PHOTO BY GREG MURPHEY
  • PHOTO BY GREG MURPHEY
  • PHOTO BY GREG MURPHEY

Creating a modern facility that respects the historical integrity and character of a district’s oldest grade school.

Hawthorne Elementary School
Elmhurst CUSD 205
Elmhurst, IL

The Elmhurst Community Unit School District commissioned Wight & Company to provide architectural and civil engineering services for the 90-year-old Hawthorne Elementary School.  Additional classrooms and extensive renovations were needed in order to accommodate the current teaching environment and expanded enrollment.  Our award-winning design includes a new, two-story classroom addition, classroom remodels, new windows, renovated art and music classrooms, and numerous sustainable strategies.

View Project Details

Project Challenge

Historic Preservation
The school had enjoyed a rich history of growth and success since the original building was constructed in 1917.  The western façade of the building had not been altered since 1933. Facing a public park that is the cultural heart of the community and includes museums, a public library, and a botanical garden, it was determined that the western side of the building was the only viable area for expansion to the school. As a result, any design solution for a new addition would have to be sensitive to the historical context of the original building, as well as the broader community context.

Accommodating Growth
Increased enrollment required that significant program spaces such as the music rooms and library be relocated, subdivided, or removed. The design team was challenged with re-introducing these spaces to become a more integral component of the new curriculum. Other spaces such as the technology lab, kitchen serving room, and kindergarten suite were added to the design program with amenities for modern educational delivery.

Modernizing Systems
Years of renovations had left the existing building with antiquated mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and communications systems. Modern systems would need to be integrated into the design while maintaining the historic aesthetic.

Our Solution

Historic Preservation
The historic western façade, with its deep connection to the community, was preserved by providing a narrow atrium with a skylight between the old and new structures, placing the existing façade permanently on display. The historic main entrance became the new staff lounge entrance and the bay window above overlooks the atrium from the new technology lab. The existing interior woodwork was restored and became the source of inspiration for the design of the woodwork in the new addition. The divided light doors with transoms, wood chair rail, and picture rail in the new addition were all inspired by the existing building details.

Accommodating Growth
The 2nd through 5th grade classroom amenities and sizes were standardized to accommodate any grade. While the new plan provides five classrooms per grade-level to meet the current classroom size of 20 to 24 students, the classrooms were sized at a minimum of 830 square feet to accommodate growth of up to 30 students per classroom. To accommodate differing classroom arrangements, each classroom was designed with a minimum of two primary teaching walls, including display and marker board areas and a teacher’s station, with the appropriate technology infrastructure for computer and video display. The teacher’s station provides a computer connection to a central overhead projector that allows displays on any wall or portable projection screen. 

Modernizing Systems
A fully automated digital control system was integrated into the design to allow for automatic control of HVAC systems. All equipment is turned on or off at a time set according to the projected use of the different areas. Fan powered boxes in the forced air distribution system are located above corridors in lieu of classrooms to reduce classroom noise. An automatic lighting control system and occupancy sensors allow operational efficiency of all lighting. Specified low-energy fluorescent lights with reflectors reduce hard-edged shadows and limit glare on marker boards, glossy paper, and computer screens to reduce eyestrain and fatigue.

Awards & Recognition

  • 2009 Honorable Mention, Excellence in the Design of Educational Environments, Illinois Association of School Boards
  • 2009 Bronze Award, Reconstruction + Renovation Awards, Building Design + Construction