Traditions and Character In A Custom Facility

The physical environment of the School plays an active role in nurturing students toward successful outcomes.

– CannonDesign, O-School Architect
When the School moved from its original home on the University of Chicago campus to its new, $30 million custom building on 63rd Street, design decisions – from the classrooms, hallways and living spaces, to the finishes, furniture, artwork and color – were made to fulfill the School’s 100-year promise of providing a safe haven for vulnerable students while keeping them connected to life outside the school.

Dynamic Learning Environment

Academic spaces have a stimulating design to support individuality and learning:

  • Classrooms specifically designed to be full of natural light and to support social and emotional growth
  • The use of color and architectural design to be inviting as well as to support executive functioning
  • Each learning area is uniquely styled through the use of different layouts, materials, colors and furniture
  • Integrated instructional technology is available throughout
  • State of the art science lab, fine arts studio and gymnasium allow for a well-rounded learning experience

A Warm, Welcoming Atmosphere

Rich furnishings, variety and visual interest make the O-School a rich and inviting academic setting:

  • From the outside, the walk-up entry, awning, ornamentation and other structural elements communicate a sense of safety and calm
  • A spacious living room, filled with antiques and books, welcomes students and visitors
  • Details and historic artifacts from the original School, including the outdoor mural by artist Jordi Bonet, are incorporated
  • “Blank canvas” areas of the new School honor the artistry and future legacy of today’s students

Safety and Security

Safety was a priority in the building design:

  • Supervision and visibility by team members is built-in throughout the building
  • Administrative offices are situated near entry points and hallway turns to provide oversight
  • A courtyard, visible from all three floors, serves as a play area, safe haven and secure emergency exit
  • Hallways are simply and easily navigated


Color is used as a functional tool, to navigate, invigorate and calm:

  • Every classroom has a different color palette, with saturated colors and bold patterns to encourage energy and activity
  • Bedrooms, living areas and therapy spaces have subdued colors married with a variety of wood tones for relaxation, comfort and a sense of belonging
  • The Yellow Door, the School’s symbol of safety and welcome, greets every new O-School student, and the original building’s Yellow Door can be seen in the lobby, a reminder of our rich history.


Being a good steward of the environment was another important goal for the new facility, achieved in its LEED Gold certification. The O-School meets or exceeds standards for energy use, air quality, water management and other industry measures; the gardens and grounds also offer environmental learning opportunities for the students.