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How might art, design and architecture create a more inclusive process for repurposing closed schools?




CREATIVE GROUNDS is an initiative led by BORDERLESS STUDIO to explore the community and urban role of school grounds after the largest Public Schools Closure in Chicago's history. 


In collaboration with community organizations, educators, architects, urban designers, planners, administrators, journalists and social innovators, this research and creative initiative will collect ideas and document process of schools' repurposing focused on leveraging the legacy of their past, identifying present opportunities, and exploring future potential of these community assets. 

One school site at a time. 

Since 2013, approximately 45 Chicago Public Schools have closed due to budget cuts, under-enrollment and low performance. This group of buildings average of 68,000 square feet of indoor space per closed school—this leaves more than 3 million square feet of existing space to be reimagined plus hundreds of acres of outdoor space. 

The project, CREATIVE GROUNDS, will work from the premise that these places not only will have a new proposed venture that needs to be financially self-sufficient, but they will also leverage collaborative design to convey a new vision while celebrating the community’s character and identity. What if closed schools remained a learning hubs, but this time invited equal use by multiple generations? What if they were centers for learning about entrepreneurship—a new kind of community-led asset offering job training, business incubation, offices, event and fabrication spaces? What if the community could also learn about health and sustainability? Or technology and design? Equally important, the outdoor space surrounding the buildings must have a central role in this approach: What if this collective space becomes t   he stage for neighborhood activities year-round, signaling to the community that the building is still active, still an anchor for the community’s public life? 


Therefore, an expanded scope for his effort is fundamental— one that integrates the physical aspects of site redevelopment, but also that addresses the quality of life of the community. 

CREATIVE GROUNDS is a research and creative initiative that will enable a platform for open dialogue and collaboration addressing the role and future of these former school sites in their communities around the city by:


(a) documenting through an inventory of sites to understand conditions, challenges and opportunities in their corresponding communities;


(b) exploring creative planning and design ideas that reimagine closed schools as anchors for community development while strengthening the neighborhood’s public life;


(c) supporting ongoing or planned redevelopment efforts to amplify and accelerate repurposing processes. 

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