Using the power of architecture and design to transform a soccer-themed high school through passion and imagination.

Soccer Academy High School
UNO Charter School Network
Chicago, IL

The United Neighborhood Organization (UNO) Charter School selected Wight & Company to design and build a new 906-student high school and soccer field at the UNO Soccer Academy campus. Our award-winning design features a unique circular shape inspired by a geode – a rock with a secure exterior shell and a hollow, crystalline interior.

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Inspired Learning

Today, a school’s language is becoming more important than ever before. Our design approach achieved a welcoming and inspirational environment – one that engages, educates, and communicates on a global level.

Our design features an innovative circular floor plan that sets the tone for a dynamic learning experience, while providing functional access to classrooms, as well as casual breakout spaces that encourage learning beyond the classroom walls.


Corridors are located along the largely glass inside perimeter of the building, creating an energy- and light-filled flow zone. A central courtyard located in the nucleus of the building serves as a living, learning laboratory that encourages respect for nature and doubles as an outdoor classroom. The learning experience becomes transparent from the outside in, triggering the students’ senses and arousing curiosity. Views of the city skyline and the surrounding community inspire students to achieve their full potential, while reinforcing their sense of belonging.

A key feature of the new school, a Student Resource Center (SRC) was provided on the first floor to accommodate different learning styles, project needs, and collaborative study.



Our design for the SRC provides a variety of private and group seating areas for information seekers, as well as state-of-the-art library resources and tech tools. The space is entirely flexible and is divided into four main zones: a Study Zone with genius bars that are fully-wired and data ready; a Lounge Zone that is a cozy haven for students to relax and revive; a Seminar Zone, reserved for classroom instruction and larger gatherings; and a Gather Zone, perfect for smaller groups.



A multi-functional gymnasium was also provided. Part mess hall, part spirit space, part community center, the gym supports a broad variety of student and community activities and gatherings.



The entire interior landscape of the new high school is raw and urban—like an art gallery—with bright pops of color and World Cup stadium-themed wall graphics that provide organizational cues.



Soccer is beloved by the school community and is an important tool for engaging students. As part of the planning and design process, we worked closely with the client, and with professional soccer organizations, to better understand the relationship between soccer and education, with a goal of creating long-term engagement with parents and the broader community through design of both the building and the soccer field, which also serves as a community amenity.


This LEED-Gold-certified building utilizes low-emitting materials, as well as high recycled content products throughout. A high performance glass was selected to provide energy efficiency. In addition, Forest Stewardship Council Certified wood was utilized as a construction material wherever possible and no added urea formaldehyde was included in any composite wood products. A green roof mitigates stormwater runoff and reduces the heat island effect.



In addition to sustainable materials selection, the indoor environmental quality was enhanced for students and teachers through responsible decision-making about daylight, controllability, thermal comfort, and HVAC systems. The building footprint and classroom layout were designed with daylight and views in mind, resulting in all teaching spaces having access to outdoor views and daylight, with glare control devices installed. Each learning space was equipped with controls for electric lighting, to take advantage of daylight and allow multiple levels of light to suit specific teaching needs. The HVAC system was designed to provide an increased level of outside air to spaces for ventilation, thus increasing the air quality within the building.

In support of students and visitors who travel on bicycles, bike racks, showers and changing facilities were provided, along with a bike path through the campus. Preferred parking for low-emitting, fuel-efficient, and carpool vehicles was also included.



UNO pursued the design-build model in order to ensure that quality was maintained, while meeting the required budget for the project. The materials used in construction were painstakingly reviewed and selected in order to achieve the unique design and provide the highest quality for the budgeted price.  

Selection of materials included a unitized curtain wall system that could be assembled off-site and installed quickly and efficiently. A high performance glass was also selected to provide energy efficiency. In addition, Forest Stewardship Council Certified wood was installed wherever possible and no added urea formaldehyde was included in any composite wood products. These careful material choices also enhanced the design of the indoor environment for staff and students. The project goal of becoming LEED Gold was achieved due to the efficiencies in the design and construction.  

Quality during the construction process was continually reviewed by all members of the design-build team, consultants, client, and client’s representative. Issues were monitored and resolved by the construction team after weekly walk-throughs conducted by all parties. Multiple mock-ups above and beyond the specified requirements were used to review details prior to any installations in the building. This attention to detail during construction reduced the size of the final punch list and allowed the building to be occupied on schedule.


Awards & Recognition

  • 2015 Merit Award Finalist, Construction Under $55M, Chicago Building Congress
  • 2014 Honorable Mention, High School Facilities, Learning By Design
  • 2014 Honorable Mention, Excellence in the Design of Educational Environments, Illinois Association of School Boards
  • 2014 Project of Distinction, School Planning & Architectural Exhibition, Association for Learning Environments (formerly CEFPI)