GEMS Academy Gets Topped, Striped [updated]

GEMS Academy under construction

Word came in late last week from friends-of-the-blog bKL Architecture that its GEMS World Academy, under construction at 350 East South Water Street, has topped out.

The 153-foot-tall,  82,000 square-foot school will be the home to students from kindergarten to fourth grade.  Phase two of the project is a 16-story, 254-foot-tall school nearby at 355 East Wacker Drive for students in fifth through 12th grades.  Construction has not yet begun on that building.

Loop Spy Daniel sent in the photo above, which he points out, shows that the phase one school getting its multi-colored facade.  The colors that were chosen reflect the natural environment around the building— the fountains, trees and brick homes surrounding Lakeshore East Park.  Phase two faces the opposite direction, and its colors are more uniformly blue because  they are appropriate for its location, which is dominated by the Chicago River and Lake Michigan.  From a distance, the stripes may look like painted glass, but they’re actually colored metal panels, which will resist fading better than merely painted pieces.

If you’re into counting, you may have notice that this nine-story building has 11 floor slabs.  What’s up with that?  Well, the playground is on 10, and getting to 10 means there has to be a place for the elevator.  And then anytime you have an elevator, you have mechanical stuff above it, so there’s your 11th floor right there.

Look for backpacks and tiny milk cartons in Spring of 2014.

This article is the result of photos sent in by someone just like you. If you see something interesting in your neighborhood, e-mail your phone pics to

Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at

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