GEMS World Academy Chicago Kicks Off Construction of Innovative New Upper School for Chicago Secondary School Students

  • New Upper School, opening in Winter 2018, serves students from grades 6 through 12, expands the GEMS offering and fills the need in the market for education excellence.
  • Innovative educational approach leverages the city of Chicago as a mobile-learning laboratory.
  • Rigorous and holistic international curriculum equips students for success at university, in the workplace and in their personal lives.
  • Technology-rich, experiential learning activities provide a meaningful context for students to engage in the STEM environment.

Exterior Image of the GEMS World Academy Upper School (Photo: Business Wire)

CHICAGO--()--GEMS Education, which spans four continents and educates more than 250,000 students from more than 176 countries, is expanding its Chicago campus to include a state-of-the-art school building to provide a home for GEMS World Academy Chicago’s (GWAC) Middle School and Upper School academic, athletic and arts programs.

The global education organization has retained Power Construction and bkL Architecture to lead the construction and design of the new Upper School. In keeping with its role as a leader in educational thought and practice, GWAC has leveraged experts in the fields of STEM and global citizenship, as well as thought leaders from higher education institutes to lend individual and collective insights and expertise as it builds its Upper School program and building.

GWAC, named an Apple Distinguished School and recipient of numerous architectural and educational awards, stands at the forefront of emerging research and practice in education, with transformative curriculum and instruction, a deep focus on embedded technology, an accomplished faculty with 100% master’s holders, and innovative design.

Following this path, the Upper School — a contemporary international learning environment with an academically demanding and balanced program of education — will feature an extensive STEM program to encourage exploration of design, inspire creativity and leverage an authentic transdisciplinary environment. GEMS Education has partnered with Carnegie Mellon University’s Community Robotics, Education and Technology Empowerment (CREATE) Lab to develop a STEM-based learning laboratory at GWAC and develop the school’s innovative robotics programs into the curriculum.

The new Design and Innovation Space provides an ideal space to imagine, design, prototype and build in a hands-on, project-based learning environment. Students at GWAC will leverage digital theater and media workshop as well as specialized labs dedicated to chemistry, astrophysics, technology and robotics, to think like inventors, designers, engineers and scientists while creating solutions for real-world and future challenges.

To emphasize GWAC’s dedication to technology, the new 650-seat auditorium will be a multi-purpose space made to accommodate performing arts programs and multimedia theater performances, as well as STEM and robotics conventions. The innovative school design promotes collaborative and individual work, face-to-face communication and long-distance technology-supported learning that allows students to generate new ideas and foster connections among GEMS schools around the world. With a focus on higher learning, the library/media center was created as a two-story multifunctional space and will serve as an advanced research and development facility that rivals collegiate programs, with inspirational views of the Chicago River and the city’s famed skyline.

“GEMS' intentionally designed, innovative space will ignite student creativity — as rigor intersects with unbounded opportunity for problem-solving and exploration,” says Head of Upper School Tracey Wood. “This new school will not only be a tribute to Chicago, but will also serve as a model for schools around the country and across the world. As Head of the Upper School, I embrace GEMS' mission and am eager to craft the education of the innovators and leaders of tomorrow.”

The Upper School curriculum will continue the International Baccalaureate-based program and challenge students as they engage in rigorous college-preparatory academic study while simultaneously embracing field studies work at new levels of sophistication. Students will have opportunities to gain experience as apprentices, industry interns and science researchers. They will be more deeply involved in the larger Chicago community, creating authentic connections with local businesses, universities and cultural institutions.

The Upper School will foster an environment that inspires all students to be enthusiastic learners and true global leaders through its innovative design and emphasis on hands-on learning. With an international experience embedded in the program, every student is a global citizen, prepared for success at the university level and beyond.

“At GEMS, we are committed to transforming private school education in America through challenging international curricula that is designed by our exceptional faculty in collaboration with university and industry leaders, further realized through networked classroom connected to schools across the globe. This is just the first step in our overall mission,” says GEMS CEO Denise Gallucci. “Our purpose-built state-of-the-art facility enhances the teaching and learning environment. We are preparing students for success as global citizens with the cultural fluency, skills and ambitions to take on what the future holds. Building our tomorrow is a great responsibility and a great privilege.”

This will be the second time GEMS enlists Power Construction and bkL Architecture on a building project, having worked with them to build the Lower School, which opened its doors in August 2014. The Lower School houses students from junior Kindergarten to ninth grade and is operating at near capacity. The building has won multiple design awards, including being spotlighted in the January 2016 issue of Architectural Record. It also received the prestigious Mies van der Rohe Citation of Merit for Innovation from the Illinois chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

“Creative, flexible spaces have transformed the workplace environment. We had the unique opportunity to design a school environment that embodies higher-level learning, collaboration and innovation,” says Fritz Morris, GEMS Vice President of Infrastructure and Design. “Using design thinking methodology, we worked to create stimulating areas and comfortable spaces supported with technological equipment to facilitate learning, expose students to complex ideas and learn inside and outside of the classroom, while bringing the outside world inside the classroom to enhance their global education.”

Students are at the heart of GEMS, and the school measures its success by the success of the students. GWAC is founded on the belief that global education begins with global innovation extending beyond the walls of the school building. Through a world-class curriculum and innovative learning environment, GWAC students will be at the epicenter of educational innovation and possess the knowledge, skills and dispositions to thrive anywhere.

GEMS Education

GEMS Education has a global network of international schools in Europe, Africa, North America, Asia and the Middle East. We educate more than 250,000 students from more than 176 countries and employ more than 20,000 education professionals, specialists and staff. With countless opportunities for interactive studies with their peers around the world, our students expand their knowledge and broaden their experiences with other cultures. To achieve our vision, GEMS Education partners with organizations and international agencies that share our commitment to promoting access to quality education for children across the globe. Our partners include UNESCO, Clinton Global Initiative, Tony Blair Faith Foundation, The World Economic Forum, and Pratham.

Power Construction

Power Construction Company is an 88-year-old management-owned firm operating exclusively around the northern Illinois markets. Our mission is simple: to build what matters. We do it by following our beliefs—that relationships matter, a people driven company is key, finding a better way is possible, and the long term counts.

About bkL Architecture

At bKL Architecture, we are committed to designing projects that only enhance the contexts in which we build, responding to the needs of clients, users and surrounding communities, while anticipating future uses and desires.

Founded by Thomas Kerwin in 2010 with the support of James Loewenberg, bKL is a team of passionate designers and practitioners with expertise in a variety of markets and project types. We design sophisticated, inspiring spaces and structures that are timeless yet forward-thinking.

bKL Architecture’s open studio environment encourages a spirited exchange of ideas. Our culturally diverse team brings together a broad range of skills, experiences and backgrounds to create a vibrant atmosphere and design process. At the center of our process is a focus on in-depth analysis, intensive experimentation and collaboration. Our team designs projects that only enrich sites and cities around the world in which we build.


GEMS Education
Chandni Trivedi
(646) 779 3810


GEMS Education
Chandni Trivedi
(646) 779 3810