GEMS School in Lakeshore East Will Be Less Colorful

Remember when the GEMS Chicago Lower School went up on the edge of Lakeshore East Park, and everyone gave it a big round of applause in part because of its colorful facade that was a tip of the hat to the foliage, buildings, and other elements of the surrounding environment?  That was pretty awesome.

GEMS Academy Lakeshore East

What a pretty awesome school facade looks like.

Then remember when the GEMS Chicago Upper School was announced and it, too, was going to be an interesting compilation of hues meant to be a nod to the Chicago River, Lake Michigan, and other elements of the surrounding environment?  Yeah… notsomuch.

GEMS has asked for, and the city has granted, permission to change from a vibrant, multi-hued facade to something a little more corporate.  A little more bland.

Why?  Well, according to city documents,

They are seeking to reduce the amount of primary colors on the façade of the Upper School building since it is a secondary education facility that needs to project a high level of academics.

That means jettisoning the building’s planned red panels in favor of a more monochrome palette.  The colors of the building will now be blue, a different blue, and a slightly more different blue.

It’s not entirely a surprise.  The last time we saw renderings of the GEMS Upper School with the red racing stripes was in 2012.  It’s been an all blue affair since at least 2015.  But with the city making the change official in officially filed official documents, we’re officially a little bummed.

It’s a shame, because bKL Architecture, which designed both buildings, made an effort to ensure that the colors of both these facades would not only work with the immediate urban fabric, but also to ensure that the colors wouldn’t fade and look dull over time.

But it’s GEMS’ school, so it can fly any colors it wants.  It’s probably a good idea, because we all know that you’ll never be able to build a large and successful organization if you use too many colors.

Better safe than successful!

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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