Brenneman School

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  • View of completed classroom section. (no credit BG? Snapshot?) View of completed classroom section. (no credit BG? Snapshot?)
  • View of roof structure. (no credit BG snapshot?) View of roof structure. (no credit BG snapshot?)
  • Construction of steel reinforcing for concrete arches Brenneman School. (no credit) Construction of steel reinforcing for concrete arches Brenneman School. (no credit)
  • Birdseye view of Brenneman School. (HB Photo, n.d.) Birdseye view of Brenneman School. (HB Photo, n.d.)
  • Brenneman School, first floor plan. Brenneman School, first floor plan.
  • Steel reinforcing for concrete arches at Brenneman School. (no credit) Steel reinforcing for concrete arches at Brenneman School. (no credit)
  • Schematic view of the arched classrooms. Schematic view of the arched classrooms.
  • View of construction showing classroom roofs of sprayed concrete over steel reinforcing. (no credit) View of construction showing classroom roofs of sprayed concrete over steel reinforcing. (no credit)

I firmly believe that there is need for schools which are scaled both in concept and in size to young people who will be using them and who, I hope, will grow as individualists. -from letter written by Bertrand Goldberg, July 1962

Commissioned by the Chicago Public School District, the educational program for the Brenneman School was for twenty-two rooms ranging from kindergarten through sixth grade. Goldberg believed that the ideal educational setting for young children should be modeled on the focused but community oriented one-room schoolhouses of the past. Brenneman consisted of a series of individual units, which could be identified by a child as "schoolhouses." The classroom, with its cave-like shape, was intended as a disassociation from the common box-like form of a typical child's home environment. The clustering of the units into groups minimized long corridors and reduced the social group size of which each child was part. Goldberg separated administrative facilities from the 24 educational units (2 more than required) by two garden courts. The roof structures of the classrooms were constructed out of sprayed reinforced concrete and were built without using forms. The administrative offices and gym are post and beam framing. The gymnasium was submerged into the ground to avoid high roof lines that would obstruct the view the shells.

At a cost of $851,000, Brenneman School was the most expensive school per square foot than any yet approved by the Board of Education. However, for years following its construction it retained the reputation of having one of the lowest costs per pupil of any contemporary facility. Unfortunately, because of Chicago's dramatic fluctuations in temperature, the building was subject to leaking due to expansion and contraction of the roof structure. The entire roof structure has since been covered over.

Bertrand Goldberg wrote of the school in a letter dated July 1962, saying, "The school represents my thinking on the entire problem of lower grade schools. Historically, schools have been built so institutionally that children are either freighted by them or conditioned by them to fit into an institutional society. I firmly believe that there is need for schools which are scaled both in concept and in size to young people who will be using them and who, I hope, will grow as individualists."