ESA Honored by LISC Chicago

The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Award for Architectural Excellence in Community Design – Third Place

Eckenhoff Saunders Architects for Michael and Karyn Lutz Center

Recreational opportunities for teens were almost nonexistent in Belmont Cragin, a neighborhood located on the Northwest Side of Chicago, where one-third of residents are under 18. Thanks to the donation of a 34,000-square-foot building at 3435 N. Cicero Avenue to After School Matters (ASM) by the Lutz Family, that is no longer the case.

ASM, an organization that offers innovative programming for high school students across Chicago, brought in Eckenhoff Saunders Architects to help them design their first neighborhood-based center. Tasked with the challenge of transforming a vacant former insurance headquarters building into a space for collaboration and creativity, the architects and ASM staff turned to students for input and advice.

Students wanted the building to be “lofty” and flexible such that it would reflect their personalities and showcase ASM’s culture of creativity. “They wanted a place where they could feel comfortable writing on the walls, where they could be the interior designers themselves,” said architect Jackie Wilcox.

Four stories tall and complete with a chef’s kitchen and eating area for students to taste their finished cuisines, a tech lab, dance studio, fashion, and design studio, vocal rehearsal room, two recording booths, three resource centers, and many other collaborative spaces, the state-of-the-art Michael and Karyn Lutz Center exceeds the students’ expectations.

“Before the Lutz Center was here, many teens had to leave the neighborhood to pursue their interests and develop their talents,” said Jillian Gryzlak, Program Specialist at ASM. “Now, students not only have a safe, accessible learning facility, but they also take pride in their after school activities and are motivated to give back to the community.”

The Lutz Center is not only a tremendous asset for the 1,500 teens it serves, but also is a model for future teen programming across the city.