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Alumnus John Ronan (B.S. ’85) Recipient of 2009 AIA Honor Award

The American Institute of Architects recently announced its 2009 Honor Awards, recognizing the Gary Comer Youth Center by alumnus John Ronan (B.S. ’85). Twenty-five projects in architecture, interior architecture, and urban design were chosen out of 700 entries to receive the awards, which will be presented at the AIA national convention in April.

The Gary Comer Youth Center, located in the Greater Grand Crossing neighborhood in South Chicago, is one of the most colorful structures on the block. Amidst empty lots and vacant buildings, the center stands out with its checkerboard façade of red, blue, and silver panels of glass fiber-reinforced concrete. Ronan was approached in 2006 by Gary Comer, philanthropist and founder of Lands’ End, who grew up in the neighborhood. His desire was to provide a facility in which the South Shore Drill Team could hold practices, as well as a community center, theatre, and indoor recreation space for the neighborhood’s children.

The building is designed with the main focus on the gymnasium/auditorium space, which can be transformed from gym to theater in about one minute. A mechanical system enables 600 padded theatre seats to extrude from a wall, while mechanical doors open the space to the next-door practice room, which doubles as the theater’s stage. The gymnasium/auditorium space also serves as the building’s core, with the center’s other spaces, including a cafeteria, classrooms, a dance studio, a recreation area and others, wrapping around and offering views into the main space of the building. A rooftop garden serves as a classroom space for students who are able to grow vegetables that are then prepared in the center’s kitchen and served in the cafeteria.

Not simply a successful space, the Gary Comer Youth Center serves as a successful attempt at providing an open and inviting facility for the Greater Grand Crossing neighborhood and its youth population.

Read the full article here.

See the AIA 2009 Honor Award recipients here.