While summer days become shorter, students of Cristo Rey Jesuit High School eagerly await the grand opening of their new school. Located at 18th and National, the 106,000 square foot building is strategically positioned in the Clark Square Neighborhood, bringing students closer to their homes and the school closer to the communities served through its Jesuit service and outreach.
The culture fostered by Cristo Rey is one steeped in the Jesuit tradition; spiritually, through their dedication to faith, academically, through their commitment to school, and professionally through work experience. The mission of this organization centers around the Jesuit mission and value, Cura Personalis, or “care for the whole person.” Cristo Rey employs this mission through their dedication to educating the whole student—mind, body, and spirit.
To design a functional space that would enhance teaching and learning experiences, the design team spent days learning more about Cristo Rey’s mission, culture, and academic requirements. The team took time to understand how students and staff used their current spaces, and then were intentional about the solutions designed within the new building. Architect Agatha Vonderberg describes some of the immersive exploration that launched the design concepts:
As we set out to shape this building around the mission, we really had to get to know our clients. One of the first steps was to experience a school day in their existing location. We joined the Monday morning assembly where we truly understood the spirit of the school and the celebration that comes with this weekly event. We also shadowed students and staff throughout their day, observing the movements, interactions and adaptations taking place within a space the client was already outgrowing. Ultimately, by interacting authentically within the building, we were able to see and respond to not only those “spirit-related” parts of the school, but also the tangible things that we knew we could help solve through architecture.
As a response to this ethos, the new building is organized into three main parts, each reflecting an aspect of the whole person. The chapel, commons, learning stair, and media center are arranged centrally, representing the religious and cultural “spirit” of the school. This central hub of the building also includes the main entrance where students, staff, and visitors are welcomed by an open, energizing lobby space.
The “mind” and “body” are represented by the two-story academic wing and the athletic wing, respectively. Classrooms and learning spaces in the academic wing are designed for versatility, allowing for both traditional teaching arrangements and collaborative learning. Designated corridor alcoves also provide small-group collaboration areas with built-in resources for additional learning space. The athletic wing to the south of the main entrance includes the gymnasium and fitness rooms. The school’s soccer field is located just east of the building. Its center field is aligned on an axis with the entrance to the building and can be accessed directly through the main lobby.
This project reflects Bray’s collaborative partnership with Cristo Rey Jesuit High School. We are proud of not only the relationship developed throughout the design and construction process, but also as a participant in the school’s important Corporate Work Study Program. We look forward to seeing the new Cristo Rey High School completed and to welcoming the building’s inaugural classes.
Learn more about the Cristo Rey Corporate Work Study Program.
Read more about the Cristo Rey Jesuit High School project.