Non-profit SOS Children's Villages was working on a tight budget to build their SOS Lavezzorio Community Center in Chicago’s Auburn-Gresham neighborhood, but still wanted a structure that was unique and welcoming. The organization, which provides support for foster care families, wanted to combine all of their facilities under one new roof, so they sought out the pro bono design services of Studio Gang Architects. The design for the two-story facility grew largely out in-kind contributions - even the awesome stratified facade was made from donated concrete from various sources.
Tight budgets often lead to very creative thinking, which is what Studio Gang had to employ to build this two-story, 16,800 sq ft facility. Faced with unknown and uncertain materials, the firm had to be flexible in its design and adapt as the donations came in. The biggest example of this is the exterior made from various layers of concrete. Each layer, donated from a different source, is also a varying mix of sand, portland cement or fly ash. The “strata wall” reveals the stratified layers in bands of concrete colors and exposes the liquid nature of the material.
The concrete wall also allowed for cantilevers, window overhangs and large window openings to let natural light fill the space. Day-care rooms, play space and a computer area fill the ground floor, while the upstairs houses administrative and counseling offices and community spaces. A large carpeted staircase acts as seating for an impromptu auditorium or classroom. We think the dynamic and uplifting space definitely achieved its goal to help improve the lives of foster families – even despite its shoestring budget!
Images ©Steve Hall-Hedrich Blessing