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Colorful Façade Revitalizes Neighborhood

The Altgeld Gardens public housing complex on Chicago’s far South Side has a long history of both hope and despair. Built to be a community within the larger city for returning black veterans after World War II, severe environmental hazards in the area led to decades of health problems for its residents. Today, the city is revitalizing the development, including the recently completed Altgeld Gardens Family Resource Center as a new gateway facility. A wavy façade, oversized windows and two interior courtyards clad in sky-blue metal wall panels bring a sense of welcome and fun to this 40,000-sq.-ft. community building that houses a Chicago Public Library branch, childcare center offering pre-K education and a community center with meeting rooms.

Designed with Sustainability at Its Core

The original plans for Altgeld Gardens, completed in 1944, were the antithesis of what the term “public housing” often brings to mind. Instead of high-rise towers, its suburban-style streets were lined with two-story row houses featuring quirky gables. All those hard angles were complemented by the swirling profile of a retail center designed by the modernist Chicago firm of Keck & Keck. The eye-pleasing design was placed directly in the center of what came to be known as the nation’s largest concentration of hazardous waste locations, and residents’ health suffered severely. Their fight to force local and federal officials to address health issues in this low-income neighborhood is credited as a founding effort in the environmental justice movement.

With that history, it’s notable that the new family resource center is designed with sustainability at its core. It’s considered “net-zero ready,” meaning that, if the Chicago Housing Authority chose to pair the building with a solar array, it would be energy neutral. Designers with the local firm Koo also wanted to ensure playfulness was a part of the plan. That’s where both the swoopy exterior and the interior courtyards/light wells come in.

Playful Courtyards

To clad the courtyards, architects opted for metal wall panels installed vertically, to give the confined areas a feeling of added height. Installers with Streamwood, Ill.-based Progressive Dynamics opted for Snap-Clad panels in a custom Dynamic Blue finish. This team also handmade many of the panels in their shop from Petersen-made coil, so the long panels tapered according to the architects’ specifications.

Petersen, a Carlisle company, manufactures a wide range of PAC-CLAD architectural metal roofing and cladding products in multiple gauges of steel and aluminum. All are available in full 70% PVDF finish (Kynar) in 46 standard colors that include a 30-year finish warranty. Most colors meet LEED and Cool Roof Rating Council certification requirements. MOH

By PAC-CLAD | Petersen

Post frame, Roll forming, Metal forming, Sheds, Agricultural construction, Metal panel, Steel Buildings

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