POWERED BY HISTORY

Powerhouse High School pulled off one of the most dramatic building transformations imaginable, converting a landmarked 1905 coal-fired powerplant into a public charter high school. After 100 years of continuous operation as a district power plant, (in its last decades it no longer burned coal), the not-for-profit Homan-Arthington Foundationinitiated plans to convert the building into a charter school. The project was inspired by the Henry Ford Academya charter school housed amidst the collection in the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. 

With the goal of achieving a LEED-Platinum certification, Farr Associates led an integrated design workshop to focus our team’s creative powers on preserving the exterior facade, industrial-age machinery, and open space on site. The core design challenge wasfitting school facilities in and around the retained parts of a power plant. The original building design split in two the long way: the south side was filled with mechanical belts that conveyed coal from railcars to boilers and the great turbine hall on north side where steam was turned into electricity. The Great Hall and its Tiffany brick walls were retained and repurposed as an assembly space and cafeteria while classroom spaces were defined by massive steel boilersand other bits of mechanical apparatus. 

With programming and curriculum inspired by the Henry Ford Academy, Powerhouse High provides its faculty and students with the unique opportunity to teach about, learn from and live with sustainable design. Earning LEED Platinum certification, the schools welcomed students starting in the fall of 2009.

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Client: Homan Arthingtoon Foundation

Location: Chicago, IL

Year: 2009

Certification: LEED NC Platinum

Awards:

  • Chicago Neighborhood Development Award: Richard H. Driehaus Award for Outstanding Non-Profit Neighborhood Real Estate Project

  • Chicago Architecture Foundation 2009 Patron of the Year (Homan Arthington Foundation)

  • AIA Chicago 2013: Interior Architecture Award

  • AIA Chicago 2013: Divine Detail Award

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