Whittier School Renovation & Addition

KIPP Philadelphia

Historic Restoration Honors and Preservers Building Heritage and Character, While Creating Revitalized Learning Environment for Today's Students

Whittier School Renovation & Addition

KIPP Philadelphia

Philadelphia, PA

73,600 SF

the opportunity

Designed and constructed in 1913, the former John G. Whittier School sat vacant for nearly a decade after its closing by the School District of Philadelphia. KSS facilitated the building’s historic revitalization, including a full interior renovation elevator addition, and site renovations which pay tribute to the heritage of the historic building while accommodating the needs of evolving learning styles. This project is the first to incorporate the recommendations of KIPP’s Real Estate Strategic Plan, a multi-facility master planning strategy KSS developed with KIPP Philadelphia in 2019.

our approach

The design reopens the north façade as themonumental main entrance featuring a new stair with built-in plantings, signage, and seating. This centralized entry sequence guides visitors to the main lobby and main office, and toward classrooms beyond. Funded in part by Historic Tax Credits, the restoration required the preservation of existing flooring and wall coverings. As such, the ceiling is the main opportunity for contemporary intervention, consisting of modern lighting fixtures and subtle color accents. In the cafeteria, the design opens up the existing space to create a more continuous communal environment. The only new structure on the site, the elevator addition forms monolithic wing wall with modern glazing. The addition acts as glowing beacon yet avoids detracting from the existing building’s historic context. The surrounding outdoor areas are reclaimed to create an urban oasis of spaces for learning, gathering, and play.

Our Process


Full interior renovation, elevator addition, classrooms, cafeteria, multi-purpose gym and auditorium space, outdoor play and learning spaces