Construction Update
Construction Begins on Second GEMS Academy Building

Is it possible to start construction on a new school building in downtown Chicago without anyone noticing?  Yes, if you hide that construction in plain sight.

The second GEMS Academy classroom building has begun construction on East Wacker Drive — right in the shadow of the massive 95-story Vista Tower going up in Lakeshore East.

Rendering of GEMS Upper School, courtesy of bKL Architecture

Rendering of GEMS Upper School (Courtesy of bKL Architecture)

A formal groundbreaking ceremony was held in April of 2015, but construction is only now beginning in earnest, according to GEMS Americas C.E.O. Denise Gallucci, in a letter that managed to find its way into our anonymous tip box.

Officially the building is called GEMS World Academy Chicago Middle and Upper School.  It’s sandwiched in the space between the new Vista Tower and The Coast.  So this will complete a row of three buildings that bKL Architecture has had a hand in bringing to life.

The new school’s design will be similar to the tartan of its cousin, the Lower School on East South Water Street, but whereas the Lower colors reference the trees and flowers and gardens of Lakeshore East Park, which it faces, the Upper School will sport a cooler, bluer color palette — a nod to the Chicago River and Lake Michigan, which it faces.

The new 17-story building has a capacity of 1,440 students, bringing the total number of little GEMS to 2,100.


Location: 355 East Wacker Drive, The Loop

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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