Project Info

Burbank, IL

84,000 GSF New Construction

AOR: CannonDesign
EOR: CannonDesign

Civil/Landscape: Eriksson Engineering
Foodservice: S20
Accoustical: SM&W

Project Responsibilities

Design, detailing and construction of complex ICC-500 compliant storm shelter  

Concurrent Project Architect / Manager role for interdisciplinary internal team

Facilitated district’s shift to flexible furniture, including post-occupancy surveys

Detailed and coordinated design of feature walls and millwork installations 

Luther Burbank Elementary

connecting students with the outdoors

The Brief

This replacement elementary school was designed from the start to incorporate a number of energy saving features and was intended to become an aid for the students to engage with nature. The single-loaded corridor offers expansive light deep into the building and serves as an organizing element for the building.

shared spaces to thrive

Each group of classrooms has a shared space at its core which offers breakout space and additional presentation options.  The heart of the school is the gathering stair, which students circulate around daily

scaled for students

Each classroom has built in seating’g at the windows as well as throughout the school. The shared learning spaces offer a smaller scale for the younger students and provide greater space to the older students.

Nature is in the legacy

The school and the town are named for Luther Burbank, a famous botanist and contemporary of Henry Ford. Our design worked to connect students with nature at every opportunity.

creating standards

The client used this project to explore numerous building systems, technology infrastructure, design philosophies and more, with a plan to leverage these decisions in future projects.

Design Phase

The school is arranged with a north classroom wing and a south wing with the specialty and support spaces. 

The rain garden flanks the west face of the classroom wing, directly outside the main corridor. This creates a daily interaction with the changing ecosystem outside.  

The classrooms and shared learning areas have extensive glazing which results in direct exterior views from almost everywhere.

Teaching the legacy of Luther burbank

Luther Burbank is an influential botanist, contemporary and friend to both Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. He is responsible for many significant discoveries, including the Burbank-russet potato.

The eponymous school was intended to teach students, faculty and visitors through eight graphic exhibits, starting with salvaged limestone carvings from the original school, representing the six classic arts. 

outdoor classroom identity

There are four outdoor classrooms.  Three are set within the rain gardens, the fourth is shared by the kindergarten classrooms.

They were each given a 4′ cast stone medallion with a custom design that ties each to a season, giving each an identifier that ties back into the botany themes.

Storm Shelter in hiding

By definition, a storm shelter must be impenetrable. At Luther Burbank, we used the gym as the storm shelter, with precast construction providing the fastest, most consistent enclosure. 

Every opening in the storm shelter was protected with large steel plates that are carefully designed to block incoming debris and protect people inside. 

In the end, the spaces look very similar to the rest of the building through careful coordination and execution.  If not for the signage, most people wouldn’t notice anything different about those spaces.

Rain garden as a classroom

The rain garden is a functional piece of infrastructure, with the clear distinction of being desirable and enjoyable infrastructure. 

All rain water from the classroom wing is directed to the rain garden, which has over 7′ of gravel below the plantings to facilitate water retention on site.

The three classrooms have integral concrete benches and direct access to the adjacent shared learning areas and classrooms.