Bernice E. Lavin Early Childhood Education Center and Parking Garage

Chicago, Illinois (Streeterville)

LEED Silver Certified; AIA Chicago Citation of Merit, Interior Architecture Award (2012);
Chicago Building Congress Merit Award Finalist (2013)

This project’s challenge was accommodating childcare for 320 children and parking for 1,100 cars in a dense urban neighborhood. Eckenhoff Saunders created a context-sensitive 13-story building with a welcoming, light-filled childcare facility on the first two floors.

The childcare design emphasizes nature and discovery-based learning. It maximizes outdoor space with a protected playground on each of the two floors and a garden on the rooftop. Classrooms and flexible learning spaces are organized around a two-story atrium that also functions as a library and music center. A bridge traverses the atrium, and cantilevered windows overlook its activities. Reading niches, colorful portals into classrooms, and child-scaled elements show special consideration for children’s sensory and emotional needs. Multiple levels of safeguards ensure security as parents move further into the space.

Sustainable features include geothermal heating and cooling, advanced temperature control, and fresh air exchange. The parking facility also accommodates bicycle commuters.


Client/Owner: Northwestern Medicine

General Contractor: W.E. O’Neil Construction

Parking: Walker Consultants

MEP Engineer: Environmental Systems Design, Inc.

Civil Engineer: V3 Companies

Landscape Architecture: Hitchcock Design Group, Inc.

Acoustic Consultant: Shiner Acoustics LLC

Lighting Design Consultant: Schuler Shook

Photographer: Mariusz Mizera Photography