The Gary Comer Youth Center

The Gary Comer Youth Center, Chicago - Illinois, John Ronan Architects
Address: 7200 S. Ingleside Ave | CHICAGO-ILLINOIS | United States
Latitude/Longitude: 41.7637, -87.6021

This youth center located on Chicago’s south side provides a constructive environment for area youths to spend their after-school hours. It supports the activities of the South Shore Drill Team as well as a wide range of youth educational and recreational programs. The building’s main space, an adaptable gymnasium that serves as practice space for the drill team, converts to a 600-seat performance venue via a deployable theater seating system, deployable curtains and stage doors that open to reveal a large performance stage. Together with the adjacent cafeteria, it comprises the center of energy for the complex. Bars of flexible program space for educational and recreational programs wrap around this core, ending in important spaces on the building exterior (dance rooms, art rooms), displaying the activity inside to the community.

Colored cement panel cladding, dotted with windows, animate the façade and speak to the building’s youthful orientation. Arranged in a seemingly random pattern, the panels can be easily replaced in response to damage or vandalism without drawing attention to their replacement.

Wrapped around the main performance area are bars of flexible program space that support the center’s educational and recreational programs.

The roof garden is planted with two feet of soil to allow a wide range of plants, from vegetables to flowers and grasses. Students harvest crops in this outdoor classroom that are used in the culinary arts programs in the ground floor kitchen. Skylights dot this landscape to bring natural light into the gym and cafeteria below.

Flexible program bars wrapping the building terminate in important spaces (such as the dance room) on the building exterior to advertise the activity inside to the community and invite neighborhood participation. On the third level, these bars wrap around a large roof garden.

⇒ Architecture Guide to CHICAGO-ILLINOIS