Chicago International Charter School: Ralph Ellison High School

Chicago, Illinois

  • FIRM

    OWP/P Architects


    Chicago Public School District 299; Chicago International Charter School; Civitas Schools

  • AREA

    64,735 sq.ft.





The design for this school on Chicago’s South Side tells the story of an abandoned, asbestos-ridden structure that became a thriving academic community and source of pride for students and nearby residents. Feeling that it was important to reflect the students’ and community’s rich African-American culture, the district named the school for the ADDITIONAL INFORMATIONCAPACITY600COST PER SQ FT$172.00FEATURED IN2009 Architectural Portfolio African-American author Ralph Ellison, whose novels and essays were transformative in the realms of literature, history and the African-American identity.

Ninety-eight percent of the 450 students at the school are African-American. In seeking to highlight the students’ heritage while emphasizing Ellison’s legacy, the design team sandblasted a quote from Invisible Man onto the curtainwall at the front of the building. The quote is large enough to engage the community to become a part of the dialogue within, yet subtle enough to instill a sense of wonderment and curiosity in the students. The quote reads: "I love light. Perhaps you’ll think it strange that an invisible man should need light, desire light, love light. But maybe it is exactly because I am invisible. Light confirms my reality; gives birth to my form."