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Chicago Park District Headquarters

John Ronan Architects

Chicago, Illinois, United States

June 2023


John Ronan (Lead Designer and Principal-in-Charge)


dbHMS (MEP engineer), Terra Engineering (civil engineer & traffic engineer), Thornton Tomasetti (structural engineer), Charter Sills (lighting consultant), Site Design Group (landscape architect for park space and playground


Chicago Park District


James Florio


The headquarters building is two stories and circular in plan, an iconic shape befitting an important civic institution, with a park pathway extending through it to delineate the field house from the headquarters. (The architect also master planned the 17-acre park). The park pathway is informed by Frederick Law Olmsted's park and boulevard system for Chicago, in which large parks are connected via landscaped boulevards. As the park pathway intersects the building, it widens to create two open-air courtyards which bring light and air into the center of the building and create outdoor meeting, recreation and relaxation space for headquarters and field house staff and neighborhood residents.
Headquarters office space (for 205 Park District staff members) is organized in alternating bands of enclosed rooms (offices, meeting rooms) and open office areas to support collaboration and provide for future flexibility. The second-floor office space extends over the field house allowing views into the gym below. The staff break room is situated at the heart of the second floor and borders a courtyard on one side with the gymnasium on the other, allowing CPD staff to watch a basketball game while they eat their lunch, for example. CPD staff have direct access to field house without going outside through a connecting stair and elevator. A covered outdoor terrace on the second level, with views of the adjacent park and playing fields, has direct access from the field house below can be reserved for parties and events, or used as a relaxation or meeting space by CPD staff.
The building’s material palette includes reclaimed Chicago common brick, salvaged from two demolished buildings in the area, to root the design in the local building culture and foreground the theme of reclaiming the site for the community. The building perimeter is glazed in a bronze-tinted glass in a unitized glazing system, and curved, expanded metal screens in champagne-anodized aluminum provide sun shading to improve energy efficiency and give the building a distinctive appearance. The building has a cost-effective structural system of metal bar joists spanning in between masonry bearing walls running in parallel, and a green roof system mitigates the urban “heat island” effect. Inside, ash wood reclaimed from local trees stricken by the emerald ash borer is used in furniture, wall cladding and gym flooring.


In 2018, the Chicago Park District (CPD) decided to vacate their office space in a downtown high-rise office building and build a new home, as part of an initiative by then-mayor Rahm Emmanuel to relocate city agencies into the neighborhoods. The Chicago Park District would be the first of such relocations.
For several years, the Chicago Park District searched for a new home for its administrative headquarters, seriously considering over twenty different locations in neighborhoods across the city. After this long search, the Park District selected the site at 48th Street and Western Avenue in the Brighton Park neighborhood, an underserved and primarily Spanish-speaking community, because it provided significant value to the community and to the agency. The site offers direct access to public transportation via a major bus line and the CTA Orange Line (Western stop), and the large acreage of the site makes it possible to provide significant indoor and outdoor recreation opportunities for people of all ages and abilities.

The park provided the Brighton Park Community with a transformative investment. In 2018, the Brighton Park Community Area was one of the top five community areas underserved by public open space. The new park repurposed a 17-acre, vacant, former industrial site into a premier community open space.

In early 2019, John Ronan Architects (JRA) was commissioned to master plan the new park and design the headquarters building, which would include an 18,000 sf field house with gymnasium, fitness and club rooms to complement the adjacent park. JRA commenced design in January of 2019.


The project has had an enormous impact for both the Chicago Park District and the Brighton Park community. The new building fosters a culture of collaboration that was lacking in CPD’s previous location; the building provides staff with a dignified workplace commensurate with the importance of the work that is undertaken by CPD staff. Similarly, the new field house and park has provided needed recreation facilities and serves as a source of pride for an historically underserved neighborhood.

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