By The Hand Club – Moving Everest Wins Citation of Merit Award in annual AIA Chicago Design Excellence Awards
Prestigious award recognizes building’s unique contributions to under-served youth and community
CHICAGO, Ill., September 13, 2022 – By The Hand Club For Kids, together with Present Future Architects (PFA), has won the Citation of Merit Award in the annual AIA Chicago Design Excellence Awards for By The Hand Club – Moving Everest, a dual-purpose school and after-school club located in the heart of the Austin neighborhood on Chicago’s far-west side.
The Design Excellence Awards are presented annually by the AIA Chicago to recognize Chicago architecture and the work of Chicago-based architects across the world. Winners are selected on the basis of originality, achievement of unusual or specific building needs, and other factors. By The Hand Club – Moving Everest took the award in the Arch M category.
By The Hand Club – Moving Everest is one of five sites operated by By The Hand Club For Kids, a Christ-centered after-school program that takes Chicago youth by the hand and walks with them from kindergarten through college, nurturing them mind, body and soul. By The Hand Club serves more than 1,700 students annually in some of Chicago’s most under-resourced neighborhoods through technology-enabled instruction, enrichment and literacy, tutoring and mentorship and spiritual development.
Situated at 416 North Laramie Avenue, By The Hand Club – Moving Everest is a three-floor, 53,000-square-foot building serving 800 students from kindergarten through eighth grade. Dubbed “The Miracle on Laramie” when it first opened in 2015, By The Hand – Moving Everest filled an urgent need in the community, helping turn the tide on decades of disinvestment through youth education and community development.
“This building and what happens within its walls are truly the hands of God at work in our community,” shared Donnita Travis, executive director and founder of By The Hand Club. “The structure itself invokes a sense of promise for both our kids and our community. But its smart design and functional architecture are what enable us to love and nourish our students and help guide them toward full, abundant lives.”
Travis worked closely with Joe Buehler, principal architect for Present Future Architects, on the building’s interior and exterior design. Buehler has been the architect of record on several By The Hand Club sites, including the organization’s Austin site, which sits directly across the street. Together, the two structures – which share a bold and modern design aesthetic – frame North Laramie in such a way that suggests hope and investment are permanent fixtures in the community. Both Laramie sites were constructed in partnership with Novak Construction.
On the exterior of By The Hand Club – Moving Everest, bold orange, neon green and bright red accents capture attention, while portraits of real By The Hand students integrated into the building’s façade create a sense of family and familiarity. On the northwest corner of the building, a cantilevered second story allowed the Club to build an outdoor playground, an essential part of a holistic youth program.
In the interior, By The Hand and Present Future Architects worked together to envision a unique learning space that felt approachable and functional. A two-story atrium welcomes light into the building’s center spaces, and bright, bold graphics adorn the walls throughout the space. To help facilitate technology-enabled instruction, the architects employed a donut-shaped structure, positioning classrooms around the exterior and break-out rooms in the interior, which allow students to move quickly and seamlessly throughout their day while staying engaged. Large, accessible teacher lounges prompt interaction between the school’s daytime staff and the club’s after-school programming team members, creating opportunities to share knowledge and insights to help students grow.
“The unique nature of the dual-purpose structure and the level of collaboration required between school and club presented a unique but incredibly exciting challenge,” said Buehler. “This type of structure with these particular design and functional considerations hadn’t been done before, and it was a tremendous honor to play a part in bringing this vision to life. My hope is that By The Hand – Moving Everest continues to signify hope, change, and promise for the Austin community.”
By The Hand Club For Kids and Present Future Architects continue to partner on developments that improve the lives of Chicagoans. In May, By The Hand Club broke ground on a permanent structure for its youth-led produce market, Austin Harvest, designed by Buehler’s team. The 2,500 square-foot building, also on Laramie Ave., will be a source of youth entrepreneurship while enabling year-round access to fresh produce and flowers for residents. Additionally, the two organizations are collaborating on By The Hand Club’s sixth site, a state-of-the-art campus for sports, education, and wellness in the North Austin community that aims to close the opportunity gap for youth on Chicago’s west side.