Richard Katz’s sketch of an open-air classroom for Brooks Middle School. (Provided)

Several months ago, I proposed multi-use, open-air classrooms and meeting spaces for Oak Park and River Forest schools. Since then I have received very positive responses and suggestions. This resulted in a design that has flexibility in a modular form that can adapt to different sites and different budgets.

In addition to use as an open-air classroom, it can function as a school or community meeting place, a place for group discussions, demonstrations. And a performing arts and music space. Think of it as a school’s “front porch” under a canopy of shade trees, a place to hang out and meet up before and after school, or for lunch.

The design is intended to create “a sense of place,” in other words, a place of permanence, one that will conjure up good feelings and memories in the minds of those who use it. The design itself is intended to have an organic, natural feel to it. The tiered cedar seating is modularized so the design has flexibility for adaption to different sites. Timber planters are integral. This design also shows natural stone planters on the ends, adding a few graceful curves to the design, with stonework in the style of Jens Jensen’s prairie stonework.

Opposite the wooden, tiered seating is a natural stone seating area with integral planters, built into a low earthen berm, as an optional enhancement.

This proposed design will be built to last for decades so as to be multigenerational. Built from sustainable and renewable materials, this is a green footprint for the environment.

From the simplest design to the more elaborate, any school or institution would benefit greatly from such a facility. For any local school or institution that would want to build one, I would gladly offer design services on a pro bono basis because I believe such an amenity would be a benefit to the entire community.

Richard Katz
Oak Park architect

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