GEMS World Academy Chicago: When Ugly Facades Happen to Good Buildings

GEMS World Academy Chicago: When Ugly Facades Happen to Good Buildings
Gems World Academy -


The K-4 building of GEMS World Academy is nearing completion.  While the school's completion is sure to be a huge asset to the Lakeshore East community, the aesthetic is reminiscent of Helmut Jahn - but that in that unfortunate 1980s Thompson Center sort of way...

The Building

Designed by bKL Architecture, the 9 story K-4 school faces into  the Lakeshore East park.  With a whopping 82,000 sq ft,  even the plans are lofty.  They include a roof top "play area," an auditorium, a gymnasium, a planetarium, and even a natatorium (translation: a fancy way to say "indoor pool").

Upon completion they will seek LEED certification

According to bKL's website:

"The curtain wall materials include clear vision glass, translucent glass, and metal panels of various widths and colors to set the facility apart from its other high rise neighbors in this mixed use area"

If they wanted to ensure it didn't blend in, mission accomplished

About GEMS World Academy 

GEMS has 9 (soon to be 12) schools in the United Arab Emirates as well as locations in Egypt, Nairobi, Switzerland and Uganda.  In addition to the Chicago location, they are  opening schools in Singapore and India.  The Chicago location will be the first GEMS school in the US.

Side Note: A number curious parents have looked into enrollment at the Chicago location and many have been surprised by the tuition price tag (which is rumored to rival Chicago's prestigious Latin School)

What Do We Make Of It?

Having a new school in Lakeshore East  is a huge asset to the New East side and the surrounding downtown.

Sadly, even before completion, the building looks dated.

By 2020 will it be "retro chic"?  One can only hope.


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    Rebecca Thomson is the Vice President of Agent Development at @properties, the largest independent brokerage in Chicagoland. She is responsible for training and business development initiatives for @properties’ 1300 agents. Before coming to @properties, Thomson handled residential sales, luxury leasing, and new construction for an international luxury firm. Thomson’s industry involvement is extensive and in 2013 she served as the President of the award-winning Chicago Women’s Council of REALTORS. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Chicago Association of REALTORS, chairs the Illinois YPN, and serves on state and national committees for the Women’s Council of REALTORS. Thomson pens a top real estate blog, The Condoist, for Tribune Media Group’s Chicago Now platform. She also speaks locally and nationally for the Women’s Council of REALTORS and the National Association of REALTORS on topics including leadership, social media, membership strategy, and business development. Outside of real estate, Thomson is dedicated to her community and serves on boards for both the Union League Club of Chicago and Step Up. She also founded Give Back Monday, a group raising funds and awareness for local charities through social media and events. In her spare time, Thomson is an avid reader, a scotch aficionado and a self-proclaimed foodie. Thomson holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Illinois in Urbana Champaign. Her professional recognitions include the National Association of REALTORS “30 Under 30” (2014), Chicago Association of REALTORS President’s Award (2013), Chicago Agent Magazine’s Who’s Who in Chicago Real Estate (2012, 2013), and RE/MAX Vision Rookie of the Year (2006)

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